BWW Review: PARNASSUS ON WHEELS is a Delightful Love Letter to Books (and Love!), at Lakewood Theatre
For no good reason at all, I almost didn't see PARNASSUS ON WHEELS. I think it was because I didn't understand the title, which really is a terrible reason. Fortunately, I got over that and headed out to Lakewood Theatre for this positively enchanting play about an almost-40-year-old woman who buys a mobile bookstore and sets off on a grand adventure.
PARNASSUS ON WHEELS, by local playwright C.S. Whitcomb, is an adaptation of Christopher Morley's 1917 book of the same name. The play centers on Helen McGill, a middle-aged woman who's tired of taking care of her farm and her older brother, Andrew - especially when Andrew becomes famous for writing a book about rural life, leaving the care of the farm entirely to her. One day, Roger Mifflin shows up in his "Traveling Parnassus," a bookstore on wheels. His plan is to sell the business to Andrew so he can head back to New York to write a book of his own. Andrew, however, is out "tramping" to collect material for a new book. Recognizing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Helen buys the store instead.
This play, set in 1910, is about a strong, independent woman taking her life into her own hands. It's also about falling in love - both with books and with other people. It's beautiful in that warm-your-heart, make you dewy-eyed kind of way.
In this production, Amanda Soden perfectly portrays Helen as someone whose life has become too small. (She also looks very much like a grown-up Anne Shirley, which works extremely well. I could totally imagine Anne traveling around the country in a horse-drawn book wagon.) Roger is played by Orion Bradshaw, who is endlessly charming as he introduces children to the thrill of a good book, recites poetry from memory, and fights off would-be troublemakers. You'll fall in love with him too!
PARNASSUS ON WHEELS surprised and delighted me. It runs through February 11. Take a date for an early Valentine's Day celebration, take the family, or just go by yourself. But definitely go. Details and tickets here.