Theatre 21 raises spirits in joyful rendition of "Little Women"
Jo March, played by sophomore Shannon Dodson, converses with her father, Mr. March. | Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES
In Biola’s Theatre 21 production of “Little Women,” the audience joins the characters in an adventure of life, love and tragedy. The original novel, written by Louisa May Alcott, has been portrayed in many different media, from movies to TV shows to musicals, operas and plays. In “Little Women,” sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy fight through their father’s sickness while serving as a colonel for the Union Army in the Civil War. The play shows a progression of the sisters through their love lives and through the fight against illness in their family.
Theatre 21 did a strong job of keeping a positive spin on a story that could be filled with heartbreak and sadness. There is an optimistic spin on the battles with sickness and death, leaving the audience feeling sadness, but also joy.
Good casting and staging
The characters were cast well all around, with a wide age range among actors and actresses convincingly fulfilling their roles.
Sophomore Benjamin May played the role of Professor Bhaer, a quirky and often awkward suitor of the tomboy daughter Jo. His shyness at times seemed to get absorbed by the other characters, but his funny lines and actions brought the character together. I was not sold at first on his character, but as the play progressed I grew to enjoy his presence more and more.
The setting remains the same through the entirety of the play, never changing from a quaint and beautiful New England home. Everything from the furniture to the wall decorations fit with the designated time period. Because of the small theatre setting, one could easily feel as though they were right in the middle of the home. I recommend sitting in the front row to grasp the full effect and be right on stage level with the cast.
Physical tension detracts from believability
One thing that stood out to me through much of the play was a sense of tension between the characters in the brief physical moments. Many of the times that a pair of lovers had to join together I was not sold on their comfort with being phyisical with each other. I could feel a sense of tension between them and was slightly distracted in these moments. In a play that centers so much around the romantic connections between the characters, the actual physical romantic contact should be much more natural.
Although the physical relations between the characters seemed forced, the emotion all felt real. From the sadness in sickness to the joy in love, marriage and childbirth, the actors did a fantastic job of making the audience feel these emotions as well. This captured the goal of bringing the audience into the play.
Well done and joyful but still a little lackluster
Another thing that I realized when leaving the theatre was the lack of a “wow” factor. Although the play was very well done and the characters very convincing, there was a lack of something that stuck with me later and that I wanted to tell people about.
Overall, the play was joyful. I left the theatre with a peace of mind and was pleased to see a production whose plot was surrounded by something genuinely happy, as opposed to common themes settled around conflict. This play certainly lifted the audience’s spirits and will leave viewers satisfied and cheerful when the curtain drops.