So you didn't cry during "Terms of Endearment." I'm willing to bet a man-size box of Kleenex you won't make it through Pages Lane Theatre's production of "Little Women" without shedding a tear or two.
Louisa May Alcott's much loved look at home life in 1862 has a contemporary feel in this three-act play directed by Beverly Olsen. In this simple theater-in-the-round setting with period furniture and exquisite gowns, the March family greets a beloved father coming home from the war, swirls through three daughters finding love and the wrenching loss of the youngest child.Shauna Burns rips into the role of Jo March with the right amount of impetuousness and a nice balance of distance - Jo, the writer, sometimes a little removed as she observes and chronicles her family. Rachelle Norby presents a mature and contained Meg, who falls in love with the tutor next door, John Brooke, deftly played by J. Scott Henrie. Henrie's Brooke must be in turn serious, romantic and the comic foil of Aunt March, who nearly steals the show with her cantankerous attacks on "Cook, Book, er . . . Brooke." Nancy Mc Fall showed no opening night jitters when her Aunt March forgot a line and just said in character, "Oh, blast it!" moving on without missing a beat.
Natalie Foster plays Amy as a hilariously funny teen who mangles the big words she tries for effect. During a play that the March sisters put on, Amy is soundly drubbed for her scenery-chewing exaggerations. As the play progresses, she does an admirable job of showing the maturing Amy.
The difficult role of Beth is played by 11-year-old Molly Stoneman. Stoneman doesn't quite present the sweet and gentle Beth that I remember from reading "Little Women," but her poise onstage is exceptional. Where this little actress excelled was in the scene where she tells Jo that she knows she is dying and asks Jo to help the family accept it. I must have read "Little Women" 10 times and could almost quote that chapter, but I wasn't prepared for the intensity that projected from that little girl.
The only false step I could detect in the production was a little "foreshadowing" when Amy and Laurie exchange meaningful glances while folding a blanket to send to Washington to Amy's father. It makes the coming scene where Laurie proclaims his love for Jo seem a bit shallow.
David Len Allen and Terri Christensen present a warm and loving Marmee (mother) and father March.
Jo finally finds true love with her Professor Bhaer who is warmly portrayed by Mike Zuro. Zuro's German accent is a work of art, and his fractured English is a delight!
This play may be a little slow moving for some people, but the family lessons - such as Marmee's temper and the self-sacrificing the March girls learn to do - make this true family entertainment.
- Change gears completely for the zany production of "Solid Gold Cadillac." Margo Beecher directs this comedy with a sure touch and reaps roars as a result.
Mrs. Laura Partridge slyly interrupts a board meeting of the corrupt and conniving General Products Co. With Judy Holliday big eyes, she keeps you guessing if there's really something under that mop of blond hair. Diane Hall is lovable and winsome and must change outfits faster than Imelda Marcos could change shoes.
The four big shots of the corporation, Norman Morris, Dale Yates, David Hancey and Sue Jarrard are avaricious, comical and cunning. David Hancey does the best dweeb since Walter Denton on "Our Miss Brooks." His Warren Gillie is a grown-up version of Steve Urkel from "Family Matters." I would beg Beecher to alternate the seating of the four big-wigs at the board table so that both sides of the audience can watch Hancey at work with his incredibly funny mannerisms. Never crossing the line into a caricature of an effeminate fellow, Hancey mines gold with his pen/flashlight in a dozen different ways.
Edward I. McKeever is played by Bob Walkingshaw with a hint of Tim Conway, and his "Spartacus" routine had the audience gasping for a breath and crying from laughing.
This old chestnut of a play has been modernized with references to fax machines and Donald Trump. Nothing was funnier than news broadcaster Debbie Zeis who nasaled her way through the role of a Brooklyn news maven with hysterical panache. This play is not be missed!