Charles Dickens”™ classic novel, Great Expectations, has been distilled, pared down and nicely adapted for the stage by Neil Bartlett in its West Coast premiere presentation at A Noise Within in Glendale. Directed by husband and wife team Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, the Victorian tale of young orphan Pip and his eventful life is an enduring fable.
Only six performances remain before the show closes on Sunday, December 19th 2010, 7pm.
Adult Pip, played well by Jason Dechert, narrates the chronicle of his life, much like he does in the book. The story takes place between Christmas Eve 1812, when our protagonist is a young, impressionable seven year old (a year which happens to be that of Dickens”™ birth) and proceeds until the winter of 1840, when Pip has come of age.
During the spooky beginning of the tale, Pip is visiting the gloomy riverside graves of his parents and siblings when he has a terrifying encounter with an escaped convict named Magwitch (Daniel Reichert). How Pip behaves sets him off on a trajectory towards becoming a gentleman in hopes of winning the hand of a haughty young lady named Estella (Jaimi Paige) – also an orphan who is being brought up by the equally terrifying and insane yet wealthy old woman Miss Havisham (Jane Macfie – usually performed by Deborah Strang).
Having lost his parents and younger brothers when he was a babe, Pip is being brought up by his belligerent sister Mrs Joe (Jill Hill) who constantly beats and berates him and complains about the small boy in her charge to anyone who will listen, above all to her husband Joe the Blacksmith (Geoff Elliott). In fact, Hill”™s performance is a braying, shrieking, one-note diatribe, so it”™s almost a relief for us (and for young Pip) when she makes her final exit. Thankfully Hill returns as Biddy, Joe”™s new housekeeper (and later wife) in a much sweeter role. Playing Joe, and also Pip”™s imperious and mysterious guardian Mr Jaggers, Elliott manages to channel the cockney rhythms and intonation of British actor Michael Caine to great effect.
As Great Expectations is currently playing in rep with Blithe Spirit, the stage is mostly a bare, dark, raked platform upon which various props, small set pieces and slatted walls are placed and effectively re-positioned when needed.
The various set pieces and scenes are efficiently staged by a four-strong ensemble that serve as a chorus, at times declaiming and chanting in an expressionistic style in support of Pip”™s narration. Through young Pip”™s eyes, all adults are weird creatures; sometimes frightening, and at other times obsequious toadies and buffoons. Bartlett”™s concise script and the Elliott”™s direction serve the intentions of Dickens extremely well.
For a slice of family holiday entertainment, you can”™t really go wrong with this production of Great Expectations.
Thursday, December 9, 8pm
Friday, December 10, 8pm
Saturday, December 18, 2pm
Saturday, December 18, 8pm
Sunday, December 19, 2pm
Sunday, December 19, 7pm
234 South Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91204
$46 (Friday and Saturday evenings, Sunday matinees);
$42 (Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings, Saturday matinees);
Group rates and special rates for school groups available
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Review by Pauline Adamek