Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Boston Parents Paper by Diedre WIlson

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
A Tale of Two Cities is a Must-See for Parents and Older Kids

Tweens and teens see their share of media content that’s more appropriate for adults. And the programming – whether on TV, in films or on the Web – often involves gratuitous and graphic violence. There’s no remorse, no hint of the devastating after-shocks that result from mindless physical and verbal abuse.Why, then, would I recommend that these adolescents book a seat at a Wheelock Family Theatre (WFT) performance of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities this month? Because it puts young people in the same room (instead of in front of a screen) with inspired actors dramatizing one of the finest pieces of literature in history. And because the message this story so effectively conveys is that violence and blatant disregard for humanity is never without chilling and heart-wrenching devastation.

For kids who spend too much time viewing gory corpses on TV’s CSI and Law & Order or horror flicks on the big screen, A Tale of Two Cities offers a soul-searching taste of violence and the enduring, if sometimes tragic, power of love. It’s absolutely worth seeing for its lessons in history and humanity.It is the story of two classes – the rich and the poor – in the months leading to the French Revolution of the late 1700s, when peasants rose up against a powerful, heartless aristocracy and demanded change. The actors in this WFT production keep both adults and adolescents completely absorbed in the story of Charles Darnay, the Frenchman who tries to distance himself from a hated family of aristocrats; Sydney Carton, the hard-drinking lawyer who, deep down, wants only to do something meaningful with his life; Lucie Manette, the kindhearted woman loved by both Darnay and Carton; and her father, Dr. Manette, the victim of wrongful imprisonment by the aristocracy. Pushing the plot toward its tragic conclusion are Madame Defarge and her husband, two commoners working toward a revolution against the rich to end the poverty, cruelty and injustice both have seen too much of.

The set is stark – skeletal structures depicting a city on the verge of disaster, the sound of a dropping guillotine heard off stage over and over again, a flood of red lighting against dark silhouettes of actors. Madame Defarge, played as bitter and increasingly enraged by WFT co-founder Jane Staab, will strike a chord. She is demonic in her understandable fury. Carton’s sacrifice for both Lucie Manette and a France in freefall will inspire young people and inject feelings of depth, pride and heroism – something you don’t always get in today’s television dramas.WFT is celebrating its 29th season as an award-winning family theater that annually presents a drama, a musical and a play for young children on the campus of Boston’s Wheelock College. A Tale of Two Cities runs through Nov. 29 at the theater located at 200 The Riverway, Boston. The show runs Friday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. Ticket prices range from $15-$25.See it. Take your older kids. The discussions – and the thoughts – that will follow will be well worth it.Deirdre Wilson is the senior editor of the Boston Parents Paper.

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