Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Tale of Two Cities"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Carl A. Rossi


adapted by Dwayne Hartford,
from the novel by Charles Dickens
directed by Susan Kosoff

Mr. Jarvis Lorry; Judge; Valet … Cliff Odle
Ernest Defarge … John Davin
Therese Defarge … Jane Staab
Doctor Alexandré Manette … David Rothauser
Lucie Manette … Robin Eldridge
Miss Pross … M. Lynda Robinson
Charles Darnay; Noble … Paul Melendy
Sydney Carton … Bill Mootos
Marquis de Evrémonde; Stryver; Governor … Dale Place
Gaspard; Brother; President; Guard … De’Lon Grant
Gabelle … Brian Quint
Woman … Kortney Adams
Jenny Barsad; Poor Wretch … Tara Henry
Attorney General; Noble … Jonathan Overby

The Wheelock Family Theatre begins it 29th season of family entertainment with A TALE OF TWO CITIES: its production is not only excellent Dickens but makes perfect sense of Brecht’s theories on Epic Theatre, whether intentional or not, and this stirring tale of love and sacrifice during the French Revolution springs onstage like a tiger in Dwayne Hartford’s faithful adaptation, shedding a few minor characters in transit. How can the most popular Victorian novelist become Brechtian? For starters, Mr. Dickens always wrote of England’s social conditions, her class system and the plight of her poor and downtrodden; in A TALE OF TWO CITIES, he pushed his themes to their logical conclusion: Revolution --- between Mr. Hartford and director Susan Kosoff, here is a theatre-lesson to be taught and learned. Secondly, Mr. Hartford’s characters are the stuff of melodrama --- one-dimensional types who exist to further the plot and no more (sardonic Sydney Carton becomes the “distancing” narrator) --- and Ms. Kosoff’s busy, detailed ensemble has no time to “act”; its job is to keep the wheels of revolution spinning right down to Carton’s closing lines. In other words, the characters are defined by what they DO rather than by what they ARE --- even the sentimental reunion of father and daughter, in the beginning, is but a necessary prelude to the coming storm. Ms. Kosoff’s production may be a THINKING production but it is by no means a cold one, this TALE’s pathos --- so welcome by being so unforced! --- flows whenever its characters are powerless to stop those ever-turning wheels: Carton’s intoxicated pledge to Lucie who is set to marry Darnay; the anonymous street-child crushed beneath the Marquis’ carriage; Dr. Manette’s collapse after reading aloud his own denunciation of Darcy before the tribunal; the silent trembling of a man in line waiting to be guillotined while, behind him, Carton and the Seamstress have their transcending love-duet; the slicing sounds of the offstage guillotine as, one by one, the victims make their exit. No, not cold at all, but THRILLING, and held together by Jane Staab’s Madame Defarge who, step-by-step, becomes a demented Fury incarnate: ah, her chilling stance when she realizes that the hated Darcy is not the last of his line, after all; her battle to the death with Miss Pross.... Thrilling, passionate theatre of the People and for the People --- you can’t get more Brechtian than that, what?

My heartfelt congratulations (and gratitude) to Ms. Kosoff and her ensemble for a job superbly done --- some of her actors continue to do their familiar thing, but caught up in this sweep of events, they seem brand new --- and to Anita Fuchs for her stark, functional scaffolding and suggested guillotine and to Lisa Simpson for her brisk period costumes, and so on and so on, down to the friendly ticket-takers. This is one evening of children’s theatre where the adults may well outnumber the youngsters, audience-wise (go, ye greybeards, and become children, yourselves, again!), and it runs throughout November, departing just before the annual army of Scrooges set up shop in December.

"A Tale of Two Cities" (30 October - 29 November)
200 The Riverway, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 879-2300

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide