BWW Review: Original Musical J. EYRE Packs a Power Punch
There's something unique happening in Fountain Square right now. In Grove Haus, an old church being used as a performance space, EclecticPond is presenting an original piece, written, composed, and directed by Indiana's own Paige Scott. Viewers of this new interpretation of the classic novel Jane Eyre will fall into two categories. The first will be avid fans of the novel who can't wait to see it come to life on the stage. The second will be people who don't know the story at all or vaguely remember the details from a high school literature class. The great news is that the production is accessible to both groups.
Personally, I fall into the first group, a huge fan of the book who was both nervous and excited to see Scott's creation. I left the show feeling completely enchanted. The beautiful production of Brontë's work brings emotional nuance to pivotal scenes. The cast of seven never leaves the stage, an except for the main two leads, each person plays a rotating selection of characters, filling in bits of narration when needed. The minimalistic approach to staging works well in this show. The simple wooden floors are surrounded on three sides by rows of audience members. Scattered across the floor are handwritten letters and notes between the characters. Even though the stage and costuming is simple, the attention to detail makes it completely effective.
The show is a musical, and the original compositions are beautiful, heightening the emotions in an already dramatic tale. At times it feels repetitive as we return to the same refrains throughout the show, but never enough to be distracting. The music is provided by a single pianist, Jacob Stensberg, on the stage behind the performers. The simplicity of this execution allows for a rawness that matches the overall tone.
Each of the cast members has to have the musical chops to make the show work and there are no weak links. Special attention should be paid to the two leads. Devan Mathias as Jane Eyre is all innocence and earnestness. Her voice impresses and she wears her heart on her sleeve, her lack of experience in love an enticement to the world-weary Mr. Rochester. Tim Hunt tackles that role and provides a heavy-lidded, moody counter to Mathias' Jane. He's a tortured soul, her opposite in every way except for their need of each other. Their chemistry is electric and and the supporting cast just fans the flames as the two circle each other.
Photos Courtesy of Derek Martin/ Zed Martinez