Most of you are probably familiar with the book. Maybe you, like me, read it in high school many years ago. Maybe your memories of the book, like mine, are vague, something about a young orphan named Pip and a crazy old lady named Miss Havisham wandering around a decrepit formerly grand mansion in a wedding dress. That's about the gist of it. Of course the story is much more complex than that, dealing with themes of class, education, money, love, family, and responsibility. This adaptation covers all of that, focusing on Pip's journey and the people he meets along the way. While coming in at close to three hours including intermission, which can be trying to a theater-goer, the story never drags and the length seems necessary to cover the epic scope of the story (my fellow morning people - just make sure to take a nap and grab a cup of coffee before heading into the theater).
This is a very smart adaptation by Joel Sass, who estimates that 95% of the spoken words are from Dickens himself. He very cleverly assigns the narration to the ensemble, as they take turns telling the story. The effect is much more interesting and dynamic that a single narrator would be, especially with an ensemble this talented. It was also a smart choice to have just eight actors play all of the characters in the story, making this epic tale more intimate, as we follow Pip through his youth at his sister and blacksmith brother's house, to his strange visits to Miss Havisham, to his mysterious benefactor who sends him to London to become a gentleman.
|Ryan Colbert as Pip
(photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)
As the other most notable and iconic character, Barbra Berlovitz is a perfect Miss Havisham. Lovely and sad and crazy, with an air of fading nostalgia. Hope Cervantes is excellent as two polar opposites, the cruel Estella and the friendly orphan Biddy. The other five cast members (Ansa Akyea, Patrick Bailey, Adam Qualls, E.J. Subkoviak, and Cheryl Willis) ably fill in all of the other characters in Pip's world, and each is just a delight to watch in roles big and small with their range of British accents (especially from the two Brits, Patrick and Cheryl).
|the ensemble (photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)
Twenty years after first encountering it, I am reminded why Great Expectations is such a classic. A poor young orphan boy with great aspirations, whose dreams suddenly and too easily come true, who eventually learns there's more to being a gentleman than money and fancy clothes. You have until February 7 to get yourself to downtown St. Paul to experience this innovatively re-imagined classic.