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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 18, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 07
Book-It's great adaptation of Great Expectations
Arts & Entertainment
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Book-It's great adaptation of Great Expectations

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Great Expectations
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through March 6


Charles Dickens' sprawling book Great Expectations has been adapted into the Book-It stage style by Lucinda Stroud, and while it's still a bit sprawling at almost three hours, it's a lovely and lucid adaptation. Directed with a sure hand by Kevin McKeon, with a sort of spiderweb plastic-wrap style scenic design by Andrea Bryn Bush, rich lighting by Amiya Brown, excellently adaptable costumes by Ron Erickson, and gorgeous classical-style musical interludes evoking a Masterpiece Theater television special by Eric Chappelle, the production follows the travails of young Pip as he transforms from a penniless orphan into a gentleman.

Lee Osorio makes his Seattle debut in the character-intensive role of Pip. He's onstage virtually the entire time, and has to grow from about 9 years to his early 20s or so. With a uniformly excellent ensemble, the story of a boy without 'great expectations' unfolds. Osorio demonstrates talent we will enjoy seeing more of. He embodies the fundamental goodness of Pip's character, even as Pip clings to and then dispenses with his low-born sister (Jane Jones), brother-in-law cum father figure (Mike Dooly), and goodhearted friend Biddy (Sylvie Davidson). Just as many children go through periods of embarrassment with their families and reconcile later, Pip finds his way back eventually to those who truly love him. Osorio is totally believable at every stage.

Losing his parents and being cared for by his sister and husband blacksmith, Pip could face a life of desperate want. He could consider himself lucky to be apprenticed into the smithy. But Pip is invited to spend time with Miss Havisham (also Jane Jones), a reclusive and depressive land-owning woman (also not born into gentility) who shut herself off from the world when she was jilted at the altar, and is now raising a beautiful but spoiled little girl as her own (also Sylvie Davidson).

Pip finds himself falling in love with Estella, even as the girl treats him terribly. However, when he is told by a lawyer (Michael Patten) that someone has become a benefactor and they want to turn him into a gentleman, he presumes it is Miss Havisham. Though Estella never gives him any encouragement, Pip believes that he is being groomed to be her partner.

As Pip is educated into gentlemanship, he has adventures with friend Herbert (Trick Danneker) and makes enemies with common man Orlick (Jim Hamerlinck) and gentleman Drummle (Gianni Cicco). Pip is informed by Lawyer Jaggers that he will inherit a property, which is crucial to completing the transformation to aristocracy. Later, when he finds out who the real benefactor is, and realizes that the goal of property ownership may not be attainable, Pip has to determine for himself how to behave like a real 'gentleman' and what that means inside.

Many of the tiny roles are fun to experience as the ensemble, including Frank Lawler, inhabits the dozens of people in Pip's life, but Jane Jones and Sylvie Davidson are wonderful as they seamlessly transform from harridan sister to reclusive Havisham (Jones) and warm-hearted and self-effacing Biddy to haughty, heartless Estella (Davidson). Mike Dooly stands tall as solid, comforting Blacksmith Joe. Michael Patten also shines as both the lawyer and a dangerous convict (Magwitch) who intersects over and over with Pip.

Overall, this is a great production to follow Book-It's triumphant Cider House Rules. Keep it up, folks! You're on a roll. 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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