The play covers four years in Anne's life, which at times feels a bit rushed, like it's trying to cram too much into two hours. Not having read the book(s) in many years and not being that attached to it (the Little House on the Prairie series was my childhood obsession, and OK maybe still is) I wondered how many of the books were adapted into the play. Turns out all of this happens in just the first book, presenting the full arc of Anne's original story (subsequent books take Anne through adulthood and into her 40s). We follow Anne's journey from when she is (reluctantly) taken in by a brother and sister on Prince Edward Island. Marilla and Matthew were hoping for a boy to help out on the farm, but got Anne instead. They soon fall in love with her indomitable spirit, although Marilla tries to impart her no-nonsense practical ways on the girl. Despite her red hair (the bane of her existence), Anne quickly makes friends at school and is an excellent student under the tutelage of her favorite teacher Miss Stacey, she of the fashionable puffed sleeves. Several years pass, filled with adventures, and Anne and her friends go away to school, after which Anne decides to return to her beloved Green Gables. She's all grown up now and ready to take on some new responsibilities, but her bright spirit remains.
|Mabel Thomas as Anne|
With such a large cast, set designer Shannon Morgan has wisely chosen a fairly sparse stage. The in-the-round space has no walls or partitions, just a kitchen table on one side and a bed on the other, with divisions merely hinted at. A few benches and school desks brought in when needed subtly and successfully set the scene. The floor and sides of the round are covered with flowers, bringing a bit of the Anne's cherished outdoors in. (When told to say her prayers, Anne asks, "can't you just walk in the field, look at the sky, and feel a prayer?")
If you're a fan of the book you will most likely enjoy seeing Anne brought to life before your eyes (there were quite a few youngsters in the audience). And even if you aren't familiar with the books, Anne of Green Gables is a heartwarming, funny, endearing story of the joys and traumas, both small and large, of growing up. Playing weekends at Theatre in the Round through April 12.