BWW Review: GREAT EXPECTATIONS at Everyman Theatre - An Ambitious Undertaking
Yes, challenging it is. This Baltimore/Washington premiere is a fast-paced adaptation of the Dickens' novel "Great Expectations) by Gale Childs Daly features six actors portraying 35 characters. It's the story of "Pip" (played by Drew Kopas the only actor playing just one part) who is a poor orphan (are there any other kinds?) in nineteenth-century England who is aided by the wealthy old woman, Miss Havisham, who changes his life forever. Add to this the fact that Pip has an unknown benefactor who helps reinvent his life forever.
Thompson is an internationally renowned opera and theater director, playwright and teacher who has directed over 100 plays, including 24 at Washington's Arena Stage where he will be directing RAISIN IN THE SUN March 31 to May 7, 2017. Thompson returns to Everyman after making his directorial debut in Baltimore for the Pulitzer-Prize-winning play RUINED in 2015.
Making their Everyman Theatre debut are Franchelle Stewart Dorn (she excels as Mrs. Havisham), Brit Herring (fabulous as Pip's brother-in-law, Elizabeth Anne Jernigan, and Gerrad Alex Taylor and they are all terrific. How they accomplish all the quick changes is a mystery to me. Everyman Resident Company Member Bruce Randolph Nelson shines again in his many roles. I loved his constantly calling Pip "comrade". Kopas does a masterful job as "Pip".
All but Kopas play many roles including narrators and occasionally they speak in unison. Obviously there is a lot of exposition in GREAT EXPECTATIONS and I have to admit I wasn't always clear what was happening to whom by whom. It is tough task to reduce a 600 page play to one night of the theater with only 6 actors that lasts two and a half hours.
You may or may not like the dark set by Yu-Hsuan Chen but this is her very first professional work and I believe she will be back at Everyman. David Burdick (Costume Design), Gary Logan (Dialects Coach), Fabian Obispo (Sound Design), Lewis Shaw (Fight Choreography) and Stephen Quandt (Lighting Design) all worked with Director Thompson for Everyman's RUINED. This is not that unusual.
Next up at Everyman is the musical LOS OTROS (March 23 to April 23) written by the Tony-nominated composer Michael John LaChiusa (MARIE CHRISTINE, THE WILD PARTY, and GIANT) directed by Noah Himmelstein. It stars Judy McLane (MAMMA-MIA!) and Philip Hernandez (LES MISERABLES). The season ends with the hilarious NOISES OFF (May 17 to June 18) directed by Vince Lancisi.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS continues until March 5. For tickets, call 410-752-2208 or visit www.everymantheatre.org.
I finally attended one of Everyman's Salon Series which are play readings on Monday evenings. The play was THE RUBY SUNRISE by Rinne Groff and Directed by Everyman's Resident Company Member Megan Anderson. I got the chance to see two actors from GREAT EXPECTATIONS Drew Kopas and Brit Herring and I was pleased to see them perform and present their acting chops before seeing GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Upcoming readings are THE LANGUAGE ARCHIVE by Julia Cho, Directed by Johanna Gruenhut and TROUBLE IN MIND by Alice Childress, Directed by Dawn Ursula. I love this play which I first saw with the great E. Faye Butler at Center Stage and when she reprised her role at the Yale Repertory Theatre. Check out this enjoyable Series. Tickets are $15, $5 for students.
THIS AND THAT
In an unusual announcement, Everyman has chosen its first play of next season, the wonderful M. BUTTERFLY by playwright David Henry Hwang starring Bruce Randolph Nelson. It won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1988. Cannot wait for this.
PBS has an original 10 part BBC drama series starting March 30 entitled "Dickensian". It is an reinvention of the many timeless novels by Dickens in which his most iconic characters live side by side in the same Victorian neighborhood. You can watch the first three episodes running from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Also on WETA Saturday night March 18 at 9:30 is an encore of the Great Performances documentary film production of "Hamilton's America".
On WETA UK catch up with the series "Wolf Hall" that played on Broadway March 5 at 7 p.m.
Remember the Everyman's rendition of Jen Silverman's THE ROOMMATE last year? It is heading to the Williamstown Theatre Festival this summer. What a cast it has. S. Epatha Merkerson and Jane Kaczmarek. It runs June 27 to July 16. Tickets go on sale June 1. Call 413-458-3253 or visit or write to tickets@WTfestival.org. Visit www.wtf.org for more information.
Broadway comes to Owings Mills on Saturday night, March 4. Check out The Broadway Boys at the JCC Saturday night, March 4 at the Owings Mills JCC. Look for my article about this terrific group of performers from Broadway shows shortly.
Photo Credit: ClintonBPhotography