BWW Review: GREAT EXPECTATIONS Delivers Great Charm

BWW Review: GREAT EXPECTATIONS Delivers Great Charm

GREAT EXPECTATIONS is Charles Dickens' thirteenth novel and depicts the personal growth and development of an orphan nicknamed Pip. It is Dickens's second novel, after David Copperfield, to be fully narrated in the first person. The novel was first published as a serial in Dickens's weekly periodical All the Year Round. In October 1861, Chapman and Hall published the novel in three volumes. It has been adapted into a multitude of films, television programs and stage productions. The adaptation by Barbara Field is currently on stage at The Vortex as produced by Different Stages.

Set in Kent and London in the early to mid-19th century it contains some of Dickens's most memorable scenes, including the opening in a graveyard, where the young Pip is accosted by escaped convict, Abel Magwitch. It is full of extreme scenes and has a wildly disparate cast of characters which have become part of popular culture. Some of the most memorable characters include the eccentric Miss Havisham, the beautiful but cold Estella, and Joe, the kind hearted but unsophisticated blacksmith. Dickens' themes include wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil. The adaptation by Field takes advantage of the scope of Dickens writing to craft a highly theatrical piece of theatre.

On Christmas Eve, 1812, Pip (Weston Smith), an orphan around seven years old, encounters the escaped convict Magwitch (Michael Costilla) while visiting the graves of his parents and siblings. Pip now lives with his abusive elder sister and her husband Joe Gargery (C. Robert Stevens), a blacksmith. Magwitch scares Pip into stealing food and a file. Christmas morning Pip returns with the file, a pie and brandy. Later that evening, at the moment Pip's theft is about to be discovered, soldiers arrive and ask Joe to repair some shackles. A year or two later, Miss Havisham (Margaret Hoard), a wealthy spinster still wearing her old wedding dress asks Mr Pumblechook (Craig Kanne), a relation of the Gargery's, to find a boy to visit her. Pip visits Miss Havisham and falls in love with her adopted daughter Estella (Annie Merritt). Estella is aloof and hostile to Pip, which Miss Havisham encourages. Pip visits Miss Havisham regularly, until he is old enough to learn a trade.

Director Karen Jambon has done a wonderful job directing this piece, which uses the cast to do the narrative portions. Everyone in this fine eleven member company takes turns delivering the narration with the exception of the actor playing Pip. With the exceptions of the actor playing Pip and the actress playing Miss Havisham everyone plays multiple roles. Jambon's staging is the real gem of this production which uses everything from mime to hand held scenery to tell the tale. The end result is an utterly charming piece of story telling.

Ann Marie Gordon's simple yet highly adaptable two story set serves for all the various locales and opens up to store set pieces when not in use. James Jennings lighting design establishes mood with great style and Jennifer Rose Davis' costumes are delightful, rich in design and texture, perfectly capturing the period. Jeff Miller's sound design works wonders by providing sounds to support the mimed action.

The cast is uniformly excellent, but there are some standout performances worthy of special mention. C. Robert Stevens is wonderful as Joe Gargery displaying a heartfelt kindness that shows sides of this actor we rarely get to see. Craig Kanne is a delight as the Aged Parent, full of moments that elicit deep belly laughs. Will Douglas displays an astonishing physicality in a multitude of characters and makes those character changes in the blink of an eye. Nate Dunaway is marvelously regal as Drummle and possesses a rich vocal timbre. Annie Merritt is deliciously cold as Estella and Margaret Hoard delivers a haunting Havisham.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS is marvelously theatrical and full of delightful moments that both charm and entertain. I highly recommend this production for its innovative staging and entertaining performances.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS Adapted from the Dickens' novel by Barbara Field
Running Time: Two Hours and Twenty Minutes including one intermission.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS, produced by Different Stages at The Vortex (2307 Manor Road, Austin, TX).
Reservations: 512-478-5282 or www.differentstagestheatre.org
Nov. 16 - Dec. 8, 2018. Thur. - Sat. @ 8 PM, Sundays @ 6 PM.

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From This Author Frank Benge

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