BWW Review: EMBRIDGE Entertaining World Premiere Combines Jane Austen Characters with Oscar Wilde Wit
Little Fish company member Kathryn Farren has written and starred in a myriad of short films that have been accepted into numerous film festivals. She is also an accomplished songwriter who has performed in clubs all over Los Angeles as well as appeared in many stage productions. After starting to write her play EMBRIDGE when a high school teenager, Farren is beyond excited to be in the world premiere of her own play, now onstage at Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro through December 15, directed with finesse and attention to detail by Margaret Schugt on Tristan Griffin's lovely drawing room set.A fan of the romantic but put-upon-by-tradition women in Jane Austen novels and the witty men created by Oscar Wilde, Ms, Farren has successfully woven those elements together in Victorian-era England with a modern perspective on female equality, the importance of family, standing in one's own truth, and the power of love to overcome fear and hatred.
EMBRIDGE centers on love cynic Mabel Martin who has recently moved to the enchanting country estate with her eccentric family and meddling servants. As her own leading character, Ms. Farren is a joy to watch as she wheels around the stage in Mabel's hoop skirt (thanks to costume designer Aja Morris-Smiley), writing diary text and poetry at her desk, fighting for her sister Emily's (Corrinne Mica) right to marry the man she loves rather than the one deemed acceptable for her by their self-absorbed mother (Annie Vest), all the while fighting her attraction to the two young men visiting her family's country estate.
The first eligible bachelor to arrive is William Rosmand (Brian O'Sullivan), an American friend of Mabel's brother Frank (Jamie Pierce) who hopes to find a match for his independent sister so she can marry before their younger sister does. The other, Henry Robins (Ryan Knight), arrives as the assistant to Sir Thomas (James Rice), an older man with the monetary means to keep Emily in her favorite frocks but lacks any social graces. Even though her mother has promised Emily to Sir Thomas, a man she and every other woman in the household cannot really tolerate, poor Emily professes her love for Mr. Worthing (Daniel Gallai), who unfortunately cannot compete with his opponent's social and financial status. How will true love survive such a scenario?
The game the girls must play involves their mother's belief that a young woman needs to receive three proposals before finally agreeing on which man to marry. And since Sir Thomas and Mr. Worthing have both proposed to Emily, who can step in as the third to prove Sir Thomas is not right for her?
Thankfully Mabel's doubts about love become tested when one of her charming men offers to help save her sister from a disastrous arranged marriage, winning Mabel's heart in the process, while her brother Frank travels to London to "get the goods" on Sir Thomas. But will he get back in time before the marriage takes place? It's a game of who will wind up with whom, told with great comedic skill and witty dialogue.
Wrangling the entire entourage around the estate are the Martin family's servants, Logan and Harriet, brilliantly brought to life by Don Schlossman and Shirley Ritter Hatton. Much like the upstairs-downstairs life so frequently found in novels of the era, these two see all and know all thanks to letters from the outside world delivered to them (and read), plus their ability to be at the right place at the right time. Schlossman is especially entertaining as he attempts to hide behind curtains or watches from the other side of the room, his disbelief or surprise at what he is hearing expressed through his magnificent, rubbery facial expressions rather than words. Hatton portrays Harriet as the kind of caring woman the girls can turn to for comfort when their own mother seems to forget they exist, the kind of friend and confidant we all need to keep our sanity in a world gone crazy.
The world premiere of EMBRIDGE by Kathryn Farren, directed by Margaret Schugt, continues through December 15 on Fri/Sat at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm, at Little Fish Theatre, located in San Pedro's Arts District at 777 S. Centre St., San Pedro, CA 90731.
Tickets run $28 regular, $26 senior, or $15 for those 25-and-under with code "Hipster" by calling the box office at (310) 512-6030. More information online at www.littlefishtheatre.org. This production is presented under the auspices of the Actors' Equity Los Angeles Membership Company Rule.
Photo credit: Mickey Elliot