Actor Nigel Reed claims not to know why he has been tapped for the second time to play the role of Augusta, the title character and aged septuagenarian in "Travels With My Aunt."
As he observes: "It can't be because I look good in a dress."
Actually, none of the four actors who play 25 different roles in the stage version of Graham Greene's 1969 novel puts on a skirt, let alone high-heeled pumps or a wig. Traditionally, the actors wear monochromatic black and white, and the show is performed without props or a set. The role of the mild-mannered bank clerk, Henry Pulling, is divided between all four performers.
"I've been acting professionally for 37 years," says Reed, 56, "and this is only the second time in my career in which I've revisited the same role. But I'm not the same person or the same actor I was 13 years ago. The answers I got about Aunt Augusta's motivations when I was in my early 40s may be different than the answers I get today."
"Travels With My Aunt," which opens Rep Stage's 18th season, begins previews Wednesday.
Reed, a Columbia resident, might look familiar to both stage and small-screen audiences. In the 1980s, he spent three years as a regular on two soap operas, "All My Children" and "Guiding Light," and he has performed live at such venues as the Olney Theatre Center, Everyman Theatre and Signature Theatre.
But Reed has a special fondness for Rep Stage, which he considers his professional home and where he has appeared in 17 productions. In 2003, he was cast as Count Vronsky in Rep Stage's production of "Anna Karenina," playing opposite actress Valerie Leonard in the title role.
The romance-heavy plot must have gone to the performers' heads; the couple was married in 2006.
Though "Aunt" is far lighter in tone than Leo Tolstoy's tragedy, Reed thinks the comedy is profound in its own way.
" 'Travels With My Aunt' is all about the awakening of the human spirit," Reed says.
"That's why it speaks to me personally. I had my own awakening in my late teens and early 20s when I first was exposed to the arts. Part of what we're here for is to be touched by our world, and to find new ways of walking in someone else's shoes. The arts formed how I define my humanity, and that's a wonderful thing to discover."
If you go
"Travels With My Aunt" runs Wednesday through Sept. 12 in the Horowitz Center's Studio Theatre at Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia. $12-$30. Call 410-772-4900 or go to repstage.org for showtimes.
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