Theatre: Charleys Aunt

"Hello, I'm Charley's aunt from Brazil. Where the nuts come from."

Charley's Aunt is a three-act farce that, when it premiered in 1892, was so wildly successful that it shattered theater records at the time, becoming the longest-running play with well over a thousand performances in London, a Broadway version, and an international tour.

It concerns two Oxford students, Jack and the eponymous Charley, who are in love with Kitty and Amy, respectively. The two girls happen to be friends (Amy's uncle, Stephen Spettigue, is Kitty's guardian), and plan to leave for Scotland the next morning. The boys, however, want to have a private moment in which to confess their love, but they can't possibly invite the girls to their rooms alone, out of concern for the girls' reputation. They need a chaperone. Luckily, Charley is expecting his aunt Donna Lucia d'Alvadorez: the rich widow of a Brazilian millionaire, who has financed his education but never met him in person.

At the last minute, however, Donna Lucia sends a telegram saying she is delayed on business. The girls are arriving soon and they will have no chaperone. They do, however, have their friend Lord Fancourt Babberly, who just so happens to be in an amateur theatre production playing an old woman...

This play provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Old Spettigue, to "Donna Lucia."
  • Actually, I Am Him: Lucy, the real Donna Lucia, knows that the person calling herself Donna Lucia is an imposter. So naturally she pretends to be "Beverly Smythe," who knew Don Pedro intimately, to amuse herself.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Subverted. Babs' "Donna Lucia" has no manners, cannot make conversation, and is described by several characters as ugly. Mr. Spettigue pursues her anyway, as he's bent on her millions.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Played straight with Jack and Kitty. Played for Laughs with "Donna Lucia" and Mr. Spettigue.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Jack. No matter how many times he gets Kitty alone, he can't find the courage to tell her the dreaded L-word.
    • Also Babs and Colonel Sir Francis. Their romantic plots revolve around their shyness and how it temporarily, at least lost them the women they loved.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Lord Fancourt Babberly just so happens to be playing an old woman in his theatre production, and just so happens to have the costume with him just as the girls arrive. And the woman he's in love with just so happened to be adopted by Donna Lucia.
  • Cool Old Lady: The real Donna Lucia, though she's hardly old.
  • Fawlty Towers Plot: What starts as A Simple Plan to get a chaperone soon becomes more and more elaborate in order to Maintain the Lie.
  • Gold Digger: Mr. Spettigue. Jack encourages his father to be one to restore the family fortune, but it's his father's willingness to marry a woman he believes is a penniless widow that wins him her heart and her millions.
  • Incredibly Conspicuous Drag: The entire show runs on this trope.
  • Maiden Aunt: Jack and Charley assume Donna Lucia is this, and base Babs' portrayal of her on that assumption.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Mr. Spettigue is guardian to both Amy and Kitty, and Kitty in particular cannot receive her fortune if she marries without her guardian's consent.
  • Running Gag: Tons. In particular, the line "I'm Charley's aunt from Brazil, where the nuts come from."
  • Second Love: Colonel Sir Francis and Lucy. Played With in that they were lovers when they were young
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: Colonel Sir Francis Chesney believes that he must marry "Donna Lucia" in order to secure his son's future, but is turned down. He instead proposes to Lucy, out of love rather than financial gain, and finds that she really is a millionaire.
  • Zany Scheme: Getting a fellow college friend to dress in drag to play chaperone.