Author Louisa May Alcott created relatable characters in 19th century novels. Her writing style greatly impacted American literature.
Her LITTLE WOMEN is probably her shining glory. The names of Jo, Meg, Amy and Laurie, who are all based on Alcott’s real family, are permanently etched in the memories of all woman of a certain age, who read the book, fantasized of being one or all of these young women.
As Nathan Motta, the Artistic Director of Dobama says in the play’s program notes, “LITTLE WOMEN“reflects in vivid detail what it means to be family—the joy of togetherness, struggle of conflict, sadness of loss, and unconditional love.”
The tale is set during and after the Civil War and tells the story of the four girls of the March family as they struggle and grow, learning the value of hard work, self-sacrifice, and love, while their father is serving in the war.
A play version of the novel is getting one of its first professional stagings at Dobama Theatre.
The script, adapted by Heather Chrisler, evokes all the right images. If you are at all sentimental, bring Kleenex to use during the syrupy ending.
“It is through a sense of play that Jo and her sisters find themselves, spending time in the attic making up fairy stories with witches and heroes, or spending an evening reciting the articles written for their beloved imaginary newspaper. It is, however, through the tragedy of losing her sister Beth that Jo finally finds her voice as an artist, and moves into adulthood with the knowledge that while families change and grow apart, the ones we love are always close at heart.”
The script, which came to life in a reading at the PennySeats Theatre, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After further development at several other venues, it got its first professional production at First Folio Theatre in Oak Brook, Illinois. Yes, small venues. It has never had a Broadway or Off-Broadway production.
An early review of a reading states, “As the show unfolded, it became clear this was no cursory take. While LITTLE WOMEN remains an endearing testament to sisterhood, and the power of women to sustain and inspire each other, Chrisler's version emerges as a heartwarming portrait of a budding artist [Jo], one determined to express herself.”
The Dobama production, which runs two-hours (including intermission), is creatively directed by Melissa T. Crum.
Laura Tarantowski’s lovely, warm period-correct set, creates the perfect atmosphere, though the constant dragging of furniture and rearranging of flowing drapes, sometimes breaks the mood. The visuals are enhanced by Josee M. Coyle’s light design and sound designer Angie Hayes music selections.
The women, who have been color-blinded-cast, not only play themselves, but also men who are part of the girl’s lives. Though they all create emotionally relatable and real people, males as males might help the realism factor. (Yes, I am aware of the movement to break gender stereotypes, but this is a traditional theme and script, and realism is realism.)
Theo Allyn gives exactly the right humanism to Jo. The actor has a wonderful sense of comic timing and displays just the right degree of empathy and caring.
Mariah Burks, as Meg, the “I’m supposed to get married and have children and live a normal life” sister, hits all the character-right notes.
Amaya Kikyomi, as the spoiled youngest sister, Amy, grows nicely in her characterization as the girl-to-woman develops.
Natalie Green was born to play Laurie. She nicely displays the vulnerability of the emotionally and physically fragile sister. Her ending scenes are perfectly etched.
Capsule judgment: At this time of holiday, yet living in a world of stress and strife, it is nice to be able to go back in time and relive one of the English language’s epic tales. The Dobama production nicely develops Louisa May Alcott’s sappy, but well-intentioned picture of life in a by-gone era, where melodrama ruled in literature.
LITTLE WOMEN is on-stage at Dobama through December 3, 2023. For tickets call 216.932.3396 or go to https://www.dobama.org/
Next up: AT THE WAKE OF A DEAD DRAG QUEEN (January 26-February 18, 2024) --An irreverent play about the fine art of drag.