Strawdog’s ‘Great Expectations’ one of the year’s best
By HEDY WEISS Theater Critic November 12, 2013 3:48PM
Kyle A. Gibson and Michael Tepeli star in "Great Expectations" at Strawdog Theatre. | Chris Ocken photo
When: Through Dec. 14
Where: Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway
Tickets : $28
Run time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, one intermission
Updated: April 14, 2014 4:48PM
By all accounts, Charles Dickens was not just a genius storyteller but a superb actor too — one reason his characters jump so easily from page to stage, complete with distinctive gestures and speaking styles and the full panoply of eccentricities.
What makes the crucial difference in Strawdog Theatre’s magnificent production of “Great Expectations” — easily among the finest shows of the year — is that its supremely gifted ensemble of six actors not only captures all the superficial qualities of Dickens’ marvelous characters (and they play about 40 of them), but they furrow deep into their hearts and souls. The many individual quirks are unquestionably amusing, revealing and richly theatrical, but there is something far greater going on here. Along with Gale Childs Daly’s flawless adaptation and Jason W. Gerace’s diamond-cut direction, it is this emotional undertow that makes this production soar. The show is a stunner on every level.
Much like the now legendary production of “Gatsby” devised by New York’s Elevator Repair Service, this production begins with the actors as Victorian era readers perusing the shelves of a library (Joanna Iwanicka’s movable set is an elegant marvel). Then, as the novel’s opening lines are read aloud, the story assumes a life of its own. It is a piercing tale of how England’s strict class structure warped human values, often driving people to “commit the worse meannesses for those [they] most despise” simply because they are “ashamed” of home and aspire to be accepted by those who appear superior.