Strawdog Theatre presents a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ GREAT EXPECTATIONS.
Tis the season for a Dickens’ fix. And Strawdog is offering an alternative to the Scrooge standard. It’s still a classic Dickens’ tale about one man’s redemption. GREAT EXPECTATIONS is an orphan’s quest for his life to meet his expectations. Playwright Gale Childs Daly adapts the novel into an innovative page to stage whimsy. Her EXPECTATIONS is Dickens concentrated. It has the succinctness of Cliffnotes without losing the emotion. Daly effectively pulls out the vital moments of Pip’s journey. Her scissor-sharp dialogue keeps conversations on point. She scrapes away lengthy narrative to get to the heart of the matter.
Director Jason W. Gerace takes Daly’s script and masters this masterpiece. He starts the show with the talented six- person ensemble (Amanda Drinkall, John Ferrick, Kyle A. Gibson, Megan Kohl, John Taflan, Mike Tepeli) reading books. They are all similarly dressed. Costume Designer Brittany Dee Bodley has them in traditional Victorian period high-waisted trousers and button-down shirts. They look and sound like a unified chorus. From this storytelling platform, Gerace plunges us into a robust helping of humanity.
His crew morphs into nearly 40 characters. The onstage quick-change has an actor add a coat, a dress, an accent or just a personality adjustment. In a particularly imaginative scene, the actors are playing bad actors in a play within the play and a moment later they become the audience heckling the actors. There are plenty of moments like this of playful hilarity. Even though Gerace keeps his cast energetically moving through the story, he also finds the moment to slow it down for touching moments too. The passionate Tepeli (Pip) delivers a declaration of love with raw vulnerability. Tepeli’s sincerity is heart-ripping. Throughout the show, the enthusiastic Ferrick (Joe) greets Tepeli by picking him up in a big bear hug. The loving gesture seems spontaneous. The moment is continually uplifting. The entire cast impressed me in their performances. Especially noteworthy, Taflan and Kohl’s personality changes are absurdly funny.
I can wholeheartedly encourage you to have great expectations for GREAT EXPECTATIONS. It’s the Dickens show to see this holiday season.
Running Time: Two hours and twenty-five minutes includes an intermission
At Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway
Written by Charles Dickens
Adapted by Gale Childs Daly
Directed by Jason W. Gerace
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 4pm
EXTENDS Thru December 22nd
Buy Tickets at www.strawdog.org
Production photo by Chris Ocken.