By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission
The bond between sisters is a strong one that is not easily severed if at all possible. In Strand Theatre’s latest offering, Little Women adapted and Directed by Erin Riley, based on the novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott, this sentiment couldn’t be more true and it’s a production you won’t want to miss.
In a nutshell, if you are unfamiliar with the story of Little Women, it concerns itself with the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, and their loving mother, affectionately known as Marmee, and their next door neigbors. Through the years, each March sister finds her own way and in Riley’s adaptation, from sister Jo’s point of view, we see the effects each life has on the others. Reiley’s choice of having Jo March’s tell the story, her story, helps move the story along smoothly and keeps the audience engaged from beginning to end.
With a brilliant Set Design by Laurie Brandon, the audience is placed smack dab in the middle of the story in the Victorian era. Strand Theatre never ceases to amaze me with what they can do with their space and Brandon’s design is no different. A splendid and detailed Costume Design from Amy Rawe Weimer completes the setting beautifully and the to designs work in tandem to transport the audience into the lives of these women easily. Kudos to Brandon and Weimer for their efforts on this production.
Erin Reily also takes the helm of this production with help from Assistant Director Ruta Douglas-Smith. Their staging is top notch and the pacing is on point. The character work makes each character an individual and their grasp and comprehension of this material is clear. The dialogue and scenes are easy to follow and smoothly played out. It’s easy to see the love Reily and Douglas-Smith have for this story and their presentation is spot on. Both should be commended for their work.
I can confidently say this is one of the tightest and dedicated casts I have come across this season and each pulls his or her own weight making for a charming production, as a whole.
The ensemble is led by Surasree Das, as Jo March, and she hits the groung running, embodying this character with ease. Her natural portrayal of this strong-minded young woman is superb and pulls the audience in and has you rooting for her throughout. She has a deep understanding of this character and gives a solid, confident performance.
In the same vein, her sisters, Meg, Beth, and Amy, played by Elizabeth Ung, Katharine Vary, and Anabel Milton, are equally excellent in their portrayals and the chemistry between these women is natural and strong. Ung plays the older sister Meg with a gentleness that captures your heart while Vary shines as the fragile Beth while Milton, in contrast, is brash and confident as the youngest sister Amy. All together, they form a formidable troupe that makes one stand up and take notice.
Joining the March women are Kay-Megan Washington as Marmee and Kathryn Falcone as Aunt March and Hannah (Falcone also tackles Hair Design and Styling and it is absolute brilliant). These women give strong, confident performances and are standouts in this particular telling. Washington portrays the matriarch of this family effortlessly and seems to have a great understanding of this character who is just trying to keep things together during times of strife. Falcone, in the same vein, is simply amazing in her portrayal of the old, crotchety Aunt March in both manner and delivery and the contrast in her portrayal of the loving and sweet Hannah, the March’s maid, is flawless. Hats off to Washington and Falcone for their beautiful, dedicated, and strong performances.
The male characters in this story, Mr. March, Mr. Laurence, Laurie, Brooke, and Bhare are taken on marvelously by Bill Brekke, JC Payne, and Alexander Scally, with Brekke and Scally taking on dual roles. Bill Brekke is believable enough as Mr. March and Mr. Laurence but at times seems a little stiff and scripted, but his chemistry with his cast mates is top notch and he holds his own. JC Payne as the young, energetic, fun Laurie, knows his way around the stage and gives a wonderful, seamless portrayal as his character grows from childish young man to responsible adult. Scally, too, shines in his portrayal of Brooke, family friend and tutor who finds his way into the heart of the eldest March sister. He plays Brooke with a nice balance of straight-forwardness and gentleness that makes for a superb performance and his contrast in playing Bahre, a seemingly rough and gruff German professor, is spot on making for an impressive performance overall. In short, Brekke, Payne, and Scally should be applauded and commended for their efforts and work on this production.
Final thought… Little Women is a tour-de-force for Strand Theatre and is a beautiful adaptation of Lousia May Alcott’s classic that pulls it nicely into the 21st century. The script is splendidly put together, the staging is on point, and the performances are top notch. All should be commended for their efforts on this production and you don’t want to miss this production this season. Get your tickets now because they will probably be hard to come by the longer you wait.
This is what I thought of The Strand Theatre’s production of Little Women… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Little Women will play through December 22 at The Strand Theatre, 5426 Harford Road, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 443-874-4917 or you can purchase them online.
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