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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 18, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 25
Cider House Rules, Part 1 a brilliant adaptation
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Cider House Rules, Part 1 a brilliant adaptation

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Cider House Rules, Part 1: Here in St. Cloud's
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through July 11


Twenty years ago, The Cider House Rules adaptation propelled Book-It Repertory from doing short stories and articles into adapting full-length novels. Though many of the founders and creators of Book-It were involved in that production, it was actually produced at Seattle Repertory Theatre. After workshops around the country, it has become the most frequently done adaptation they've ever helped create. We now have an opportunity to revisit the script with Part 1 now, while Part 2 opens their next season in the fall.

This sprawling tale, brilliantly adapted by Peter Parnell from John Irving's novel, details the story of Homer Wells, an orphan who was never adopted and stays at St. Cloud's orphanage in Maine until he attains manhood. His father figure, Dr. Wilbur Larch, teaches him to help the doctor both deliver babies and perform abortions. Part 1 focuses on his birth, his failed adoptions, and his relationships with those in the orphanage. It ends just as he is going off on what is supposed to be a two-day adventure to the ocean.

The script is tight, the full cast is a well-oiled ensemble - a standout production, helmed by Book-It founder Jane Jones. Even though it clocks in at around three hours, the time flies by with rich detail and interesting characters. The dilemmas addressed in the play are complex, addressing subjects that still create controversy to this day. Should a doctor perform abortions? Should abortions be objects of legal restriction? Does it matter if the fetus is "quick" or not? The choices are individual ones, but they are not easy choices.

Peter Crook portrays the determined Dr. Larch with warmth and restraint. His bewildered affection for Homer is clear and understandable. Connor Toms is a revelation as young Homer; his emotional transitions seen in his expressive face. He also brings a sense of honor and self-confidence into the journey. Melinda Deane and Julie Jamieson subtly warm up the orphanage nurses with humor and compassion. Another standout in the excellent cast is Terri Weagant who plays angry orphan girl Melony, who seems to have collected all the anger and bad feelings that Homer doesn't have in a similar circumstance. Weagant brings an explosive, awkward sexuality to the role that speaks of a complex inner life.

Onstage musicians, including main musician Eric Chappelle, provide original compositions by Danny Wheetman, music directed by Edd Key. Since there is no real set aside from a couple of walls with doors, music and lighting by Andrew D. Smith provide crucial scene change information and time-of-day clarity. Costume designer Pete Rush has his hands full as men and women do quick changes, men into boys or girls, women into girls or boys, and each actor has multiple characters to play.

Consider this one of the best productions of the year and a must-see. You will have a few opportunities in the fall to see Part 1 during the run of Part 2 (woe to the poor actors who have to remember both plays at once), but there's no reason to hold off. In fact, the summer wait will whet your appetite for the culmination of the story. For more information, go to www.book-it.org or call 206-216-0833.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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