In early December, I saw the Spirit Theater’s production of Anne of Green Gables.
In the L. M. Montgomery series of books, Anne Shirley, a spirited, imaginative, redheaded orphan girl, is adopted by a spinster brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert of Prince Edward Island, Canada. Over the course of the series, Anne proves her independence and imagination and becomes an auburn-haired, spirited adult.
As an example of her unorthodox upbringing, Anne gave up talking to God when she was told He gave her red hair for a reason. Anne could think of no reason good enough to put up with red hair and consequently stops talking to God. She is turned around by Marilla’s insistence that she has a duty to offer gratitude and to ask for what she wants.
It’s a charming story of a spunky, can’t-hold-me-back girl, who is encouraged by her “adoptive parents” to pursue an education to be able to support herself (even if she doesn’t need to) and to compete for a scholarship with the acknowledged class leader Gilbert Blythe.
The focus is on Anne, energetically and well-played by Jen Marley (photo by Jason Ganwich). (Anne spelled with an 'e', please, if you can’t find it in your heart to call her Cordelia.) Many other school age characters are also presented. Anne’s bosom friend Diana Barry, played by Lisa Martyn, was a real standout with her dark and dramatic eyes but I was disappointed by Diana’s soft nature when she gives in to her mother’s edict that she doesn’t need an education because she’ll get married. Attention hungry Josie Pye, played by Krissi Abbott, proves to be accurately sulky and poisonous at turns. The other young actors were equally charming.
The dignity, surprise and exasperation shown by Jennifer Abbott as Marilla proved a real backbone of stability for the production. Marilla’s friend, busybody and nosy neighbor Rachel Lynde, (Kristie Worthy) provided a apt contrast to Marilla’s calm. Even more calm and seemingly uncommunicative was Matthew (Allen Auxier), surprising viewers with the depth of his mostly unvocalized communication.
One of the things I really liked about the production is the number of young actors in the production. It speaks well of the success of Jerry Abbott’s actor training workshops.
Another thing I liked was the way the play was staged in the very unusual space offered by the First Baptist Church auditorium. The proscenium was very shallow and had central stairs, reaching far up the stage. Director/playwright Jerry Abbott made creative use of the different elevations, using them for the buggy Matthew and Anne drove home to Green Gables, class room seating, Anne’s room and a drifting, Lady of Shallot boat. The higher elevations made hearing the actors much easier as well. In the first scene played on the first level in the Cuthbert parlor, I couldn’t hear or understand Anne when she faced Marilla and away from me.
The Spirit Theater production, as a valentine to playwright/director Abbott’s daughter, is a successful statement of his appreciation of Anne’s independence and charm as well as her vivid and romantic imagination, and by extension, of his daughter’s.
The Hot L Baltimore by Lanford Wilson
A brilliant off-Broadway success by an outstanding playwright, which brings compassion, humor and arresting theatricality to its imaginative, touching study of last souls trapped by society’s inerorable decay. the scene is the lobby of a rundown hotel, so seedy that it has lost the ‘e’ from its marquee. As the action unfolds, the residents, ranging from young to old, from the difiant to the resigned, meet, talk, and interact with each other during the course of one day.
January 9-24, 1998. Adult situations, nudity.
Beyond Therapy by Christopher Durang
Bruce and Prudence are deeply iinto therapy. Prudence’s macho therapists is urging her to be more assertive while Bruce’s wacky female therapist is urging him to meet someone of the opposite sex by placing a personal ad. They attempt to live beyond thearapy in this delightful comedy, an off-Broadway hit that moved successfully to Broadway.
February 19-March 7, 1998.
Mass Appeal by Bill C. Davis
Originally presented by off-Broadway's Manhattan theatre Club, this brilliantly funny yet warmly compassionate play moved to a long, critically acclaimed run on Broadway. It deals with the conflict between a comfortably established older priest and the impassioned young seminarian who challenges the validity of his well-rountined regimen. The play explores their relationship with a combination of huymor and deep-seated humanity.
April 2-18, 1998.
It is our belief that theatre is art, and as art, should both reflect, teach, and remind society of our humanity. We are committed to challenging both the actor and the audience. We will be presenting new, original pieces, previously written pieces, classics, including Shakespeare, works from diverse cultures, as well as those that inspire change. We will present theatre that is "up close and personal," entertaining and "in your face." Theatre can take on many different faces, and we hope to show you at least some of them. We firmly believe that theatre is art, that art is the sould of any culture, and that "art illuminates the soul."
Contact the Spirit Theatre if you would like to take part their acting workshops for adults and youngadults. The cost is only $75.00 per month.
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