Posts Tagged Jennifer Le Blanc
The novel “Great Expectations” penned in 1861 by Charles Dickens, has received near universal acclaim and has been translated in several languages. Dickens’s themes of extreme poverty, jaw dropping wealth, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of basic human goodness, resonate across countries and cultures.
Interpretation of this masterpiece was adapted for stage, by Neil Bartlett, and is currently playing at San Jose Stage Theater in San Jose, CA. Big kudos to Artistic Director, Randall King and Executive Director, Cathleen King. The story begins with an orphan, Pip (Keith Pinto) who lives with his hot-tempered sister and kindly brother-in-law, stealing some food. The key challenge in playing this masterpiece on stage is to whittle down Dickens’s brilliant use of character and plot to a few minutes of on stage performance. Credit for this artful performance goes to brilliant director, Kenneth Kelleher and masterful cast of performers, Li Leng Au, Jennifer Le Blanc, Julian Lopez-Morillas, Norman Gee, and Nick Rodrigues, in various roles, besides Pip’s. And it goes without saying that Keith Pinto as young orphan Pip, lovestruck teenage Pip, and wealthy and more mature Pip, is truly brilliant.
Little boy Pip gets a peek into wealth and upper class society when fabulous and wealthy Miss Haversham asks for Pip to visit her, for her amusement. Miss Haversham was left at the altar in her youth and she continues to nurse her pain. As a daily reminder of her pain, she still wears a tattered old wedding dress. Li Leng Au as Miss Haversham brings dramatic energy and a sense of gravitas. But it is not the wealth that sparks Pip’s interest or curiosity about eccentric Miss haversham that propels him to continue to visit her. Pip falls hopelessly in love with Miss Haversham’s adopted daughter, Estella. However, Estella’s cold treatment (encouraged by Miss Haversham) and Pip’s own low social status in life, precludes any chance for him marrying Estella. And yet, Pip harbors great expectations that perhaps some day he may be a man of means and be worthy of marriage with Estella.
And yet, acknowledging the futility of this exercise, Pip laments,
“Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.”
This is a brilliant story depicting differences between classes in Victorian England. It is a also a story of courage, romance, love and hope. Sometimes the lessons one learns through trials and tribulations in life, only become apparent much later. It is much later that Pip understands that love transcends wealth and he also realizes that money can never buy love, nor guarantee happiness. The play is beautifully performed and as intended by Dickens, it provides a window into the society that was most significantly divided by class and also serves as a morality tale.
In the words of Artistic Director, Randall King, “this story challenges us to open our hearts and minds to become kinder, more compassionate and better at discerning true moral values.”Tickets are available at www.thestage.org .
Persuasion by Jane Austen – Play Review
Beginning April 3, San Jose Stage Company is showing Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”, adapted by local Bay Area playwright, Jennifer Le Blanc and directed by Kenneth Kelleher. In the words of Randall King, Artistic Director of the San Jose Stage Company, “The intimate setting of The Stage venue is the perfect environment to revel in Miss Austen’s characters, who must negotiate a complex code of conduct in order to survive, much less achieve their ends. The story is indicative of Austen’s great talent, razor sharp, laced with irony and wit, and remarkably phrased.”
Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, who allowed herself to be “persuaded” to end her engagement with Captain Wentworth, a man she loved, but one without fortune. Maryssa Wanlass, in the role of Anne Elliot, is beautiful, calm, cerebral, poised, and graceful. In the opening scene, she second guesses her earlier decision about Captain Wentworth, and confides to her guardian, Lay Russell, “But I am now persuaded that in spite of the disapproval at home and the anxiety attending his prospects that I… I should have been happier, had I…” Jane Austen was unhappy about the level of persuasion employed by the society, on young people, particularly young women, regarding their marital choices. It is ironical that matronly and kind Lady Russell (played by Susan Gundunas), appears to be the only voice of maturity and reason, in the family, while she was in fact the reason Anne had first rejected Captain Wentworth.
As for Anne Elliott’s father, “Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and of situation.” Paul Myrvold does a superb job in the role of Sir Walter Elliot and later as Admiral Croft. Mrs. Mary Musgrove, (played by Halsey Varady), Anne Elliot’s younger sister, is nervous, fretful woman, fortunate to marry Charles Musgrove (very well played by William J. Brown III). While Anne was looking after her sister Mary, Captain Wentworth (superbly played by Will Springhorn Jr.), reenters her life. Everyone around Anne and Captain Wentworth, including Charles Musgrove, his sisters Louisa and Henrietta (Juliet Heller & Allison F. Rich), and his mother (Donna Federico) are completely unaware of their earlier relationship and the emotional turmoil brewing inside Anne and her love. While Captain Wentworth is occupied by attentions of Louisa Musgrove, Anne is also pursued by her wicked cousin, Mr. Elliot (played by Paul Stout).
Circumstances have given Anne a second chance to marry for love. Will Anne now follow her heart? Austen makes fine arguments about women as “rational creatures”, whose stories would take different turns, but for the fact that the women’s stories are recounted “through history and books, nearly all of which have been produced by men, and many of which castigate women’s inconstancy and fickleness”. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, for women, marriage was the only ticket out of the class they were born into. Practicality dictated that they use reason, over emotion. Despite these constraints, Austen’s heroines demonstrate that they can think rationally, display a fair measure of autonomy, and crave independence. Jane Austen’s heroines marry for love, not practicality. And it just happens that guided by love, their chosen path leads them to the man who is worthy of their love, is well regarded in society and very wealthy. Isn’t it every woman’s dream, even today? Not surprisingly, time does not dim the popularity of Jane Austen.
Persuasion is playing at The Bay Area’s Premiere Off-Broadway Theater, The Stage www.thestage.org , in San Jose, from April 3 to April 28, 2013.