BWW Review: THE HOBBIT at Circle Theatre is Fantasy Fun
A wizard, a hobbit, elves, trolls, dwarves, goblins and a dragon swarm the darkened Circle Theatre to tell the tale of THE HOBBIT, Patricia Gray's adaptation of the 1937 classic fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Bilbo Baggins (Jeff Dworkin) is a genial, food-loving hobbit content to remain at his home underground. Gandalf, a wandering wizard (Carolyn Sue Mouttet), knocks on Bilbo's door and sets in motion an adventure that is both dangerous and unwanted by the peaceable hobbit. Before he knows it, Bilbo's home is overrun at tea time with 13 dwarves led by Thorin (Dennis Stessman). Gandalf produces a map indicating a secret door into Lonely Mountain where Smaug, an evil dragon, lives with the treasure he has stolen from the dwarves. The dwarves need Bilbo to act as the Burglar who will lead them into killing Smaug and recovering the treasure. Along their journey, Bilbo and company encounter unfriendly elves, goblins, trolls, and more. Bilbo is deserted in goblin tunnels and finds a magic ring that renders him invisible. To escape with the ring, he engages in a series of riddles with Gollum (William Wehrs).
Circle Theatre does a respectable job of taking a flat space and turning it into an imaginative set. Through the use of draperies that are drawn back when the lights are dimmed, pieces are moved and the stage is set. There are plentiful periods of darkness throughout the show. Lights accent scenes effectively, using a strobe light, surprising flashes, and an electrical campfire for special effect. The dragon is constructed with great creativity.
The cast is sizable with over 30 actors of various ages and experience. They range from seasoned veterans and graduates of university theatre programs to those brand new to performing in theatrical productions. Under the direction of Jarrett Thomas with Angela Dashner (Associate Artistic Director) and Fran Sillau (Artistic Director), the cast does a good job interacting with each other, maintaining identifiable personalities, and weaving this well-loved fantasy. Cast members move throughout the space, at times appearing behind the audience.
Composer/musician April Corbet adds a further layer of mystery with eerily beautiful violin music.
Dworkin as Bilbo shoulders the heavy responsibility to carry the show. His appearance (although a rather tall man for a hobbit) and mannerisms are just right. He nails the part and is likable to boot. Stessman is authoritarian and resolute as the head of the dwarves- a solid performance all around. Wehrs comes across just creepy enough for the role of Gollum. His speech vacillates between growling and whiny, portraying Gollum's uniqueness very well. Mouttet as Gandalf is good, although this role may not have been her best of the several I have seen her in.
If there were some way to elevate the audience seating so that the stage is visible from beyond the second row on each of the three sides, that would be great. But as it is, I recommend that you arrive early enough to secure a seat close to the action. This is a really fun show and worth seeing all of it.
Remaining shows are Friday, FEB 15; Saturday, FEB 16; Friday, FEB 22; and Saturday, FEB 23 at 7:00 pm. Located at Hansom Park United Methodist Church, 4444 Frances Street, Omaha, tickets are available online at https://circleom.booktix.com. See http://www.circletheatreomaha.org for additional information.