Sunday, November 8, 2009

Beverly Creasey reviews A Tale of Two Cities

Revolution And Redemption
By Beverly Creasey

Here’s the reason to celebrate in these difficult economic times: Wheelock Family Theatre is still able to mount large scale productions where many theaters cannot. Their latest is Dwayne Hartford’s adaption of Dickens’ monumental A Tale Of Two Cities (playing through November 29th).

Dickens, who wrote so eloquently about human suffering, was himself victim of circumstance spending time as a child in debtor’s prison and later finding work as a child laborer in a factory. Like Sydney Carton in A Tale Of Two Cities, Dickens served as a lawyer’s clerk before finding success serializing his stories in the newspaper.

A cast of fifteen actors recreate the harrowing stories of ordinary people caught up in events surrounding the French Revolution. Justice and morality are Dickens’ bread and butter and his scope is broad. We meet dozens of characters who swirl around carton and the Manettes, as they move closer and closer to disaster, in the person of relentless Madame Defarge.

Bill Mootos as Sydney Carton functions both as narrator and principal player in Dickens’ sweeping morality tale. He falls in love with Lucie Manette (the lovely Robin Eldridge) and pledges his loyalty to her and her family despite her affection for another. Mootos is the consummate Dickens actor, navigating the delicate balance between melodrama and naturalism. His charismatic performance as the sardonic antihero carries the production. M. Lynda Robinson, too, gets the Dickensian exaggerations just right, as Lucy Manettes’s hilarious, high strung governess.

Alas, opening night goblins got into sound system on Halloween eve, making it hard to hear the actors over swelling music punctuating the mood, movie style. In addition, my theater companion had great difficulty distinguishing between London and Paris as one scene often runs right into the next and many of the actors playing both French and English do so without a change of costume. It takes a few minutes to realize that the Englishman hasn’t travelled to the continent. He’s now an entirely different character (and nationality). Hats are added for the revolutionaries in Act II which is most helpful but a good knowledge of the story ahead of time is your best bet to follow the script.

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