BWW Review: GREAT EXPECTATIONS Entertains at Syracuse Stage

BWW Review: GREAT EXPECTATIONS Entertains at Syracuse Stage
Linda Mugleston and Robbie Simpson. Photo courtesy of the production.

Syracuse Stage opened its 44th season with Gale Childs Daly's adaptation of Charles Dickens' masterpiece GREAT EXPECTATIONS, brilliantly directed by Michael Bloom. The production is humorous, fast-paced, and very easy to follow regardless of familiarity with the novel.

The story centers on the poor orphan Pip (Robbie Simpson) in 19th century England. It explores Pip's transition from childhood into adulthood and how all of the people that came in and out of his life make him into the gentleman that he ultimately becomes. Pip's journey from poverty to wealth is a tumultuous one. There are easy times and hard times. When Pip finally reaches adulthood and becomes a proper English gentleman living in London, he quickly realizes that money and class does not necessarily result in a content life. The stage adaptation is quite perfect because although it still features multiple characters and plotlines, it keeps Pip at the heart of it all.

A six member cast brilliantly brings the classic to life.

Robbie Simpson portrays the protagonist, Pip, with such consistency and confidence. Simpson plays off of his fellow actors very well no matter the part they're playing at the moment. The audience can see Pip's growth as an individual throughout the course of the play thanks to Simpson's tremendous acting skills. His emotional performance is believable.

The other five cast members switch costumes (beautifully designed by Tracy Dorman) and accents (coached by Ralph Zito) to portray the various people in Pip's life in a believable way. The adaptable cast not only excels at switching characters, but also bringing out the humor inherent in the play.

Anthony Cochrane (Narrator 1) transforms himself easily as he takes on various characters, but his main role is the convict that is Pip's benefactor. Pip reaches the status of a gentleman with his help. Cochrane is appropriately is sly, quick, and humorous as the convict, but also excels in the other roles. He has a perfect onstage presence.

Seth Andrew Bridges (Narrator 2) plays Herbert Pocket and various other characters. He steals the scene as young Herbert challenging Pip to a fistfight at Miss Havishman's home. As he falls from the various punches that Pip throws, he does so in such a humorous and flawless way. His comedic timing shines through in every gesture and line.

Linda Mugleston (Narrator 3) easily and swiftly transforms herself into each and every character in what seems like only seconds and excels at playing all of them. For example, Mugleston portrays Mrs. Joe, Pip's older, ill-tempered sister with such hilarity. She steals the scene with each and every sarcastic and nasty line while maintaining her accent perfectly. Mugleston's transformation into Miss Havishman, the wealthy spinster, is both fast and convincing. She captures her character's torture, loneliness, and anger perfectly. Mugleston is a true character actress with impeccable comedic timing.

Marina Shay (Narrator 4) transforms herself from the haughty Estella to the sweet Biddy very easily. Her facial expressions stand out in every scene and in every role. Her line delivery, movement, and connection with her fellow actors are very strong. Her accents are also something to applaud.

William Oliver Watkins (Narrator 5) is also brilliant at transforming from one character to another. He is a confident and professional performer at all times. . Watkins is extremely likeable as Joe Gargery.

The artistic elements are among the best I've seen at Syracuse Stage. The breathtaking scenic design by Michael Schweikhardt is extremely detailed yet functional. The turn table ensures smooth scene changes, but also enhanced the telling of the story. Nancy Schertler's lighting captures the dark and dreary London as well as the darkness within the various characters. Scott Killian's music composition and sound design adds so much to the production. The music is a definite highlight and can be described as beautiful, intricate, and mysterious.

The present production has incredible acting, a brilliant story, and amazing sets. GREAT EXPECTATIONS exceeds expectations at Syracuse Stage. It is a witty production that is highly entertaining.

Running Time: Two Hours and thirty minutes with one twenty minute intermission.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS at the Archbold Theatre in the Syracuse Stage/SU Drama Complex, 820 E. Genesee Street, Syracuse, NY 13210 runs through November 6, 2016. For tickets and information, visit the Syracuse Stage website or call the box office at (315) 443-3275.

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From This Author Natasha Ashley

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