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The Playgoer: Twin Beach Players’ Little Women

Be sure to see this lovely ­production of an American classic

Love is a flower that grows in any soil,

works its sweet miracles undaunted by autumn frost or winter snow,

blooming fair and fragrant all the year,

and blessing those who give and those who receive.

            —Louisa May Alcott

 

A coming of age story of four New England sisters at the time of the Civil War, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women explores family, charity, duty and femininity from their perspective. But without question, what ties this family and this story together is love: fervent love for each other and love of their faith, community and country. Each sister, each character even, wrestles with who they are and the choices they make in terms of impacts on those around them. Their struggle for individuality while attempting to balance their responsibility to their family creates many thought-provoking situations.

            Set in 1861, Twin Beach Players’ production interprets Part One of the Alcott’s beloved novel. The story begins as sisters Jo (Olivia McClung), Meg (Brianna Boyer), Beth (Ashley Vernier) and Amy (Riley Nikolaus), plan for Christmas. The holiday is to be celebrated without their father, Mr. March (Andrew Brinegar), who has become a chaplain to be of service to his country in the Civil War. Though frustrated by their modest circumstances, the girls take what little money they have and buy gifts for their mother, Marmee (Taylor Baker), who spends her time caring for the family and volunteering in the community. Aunt March (Aaliyah Roach), a cantankerous relative and Jo’s employer, visits with gifts plus unwelcome opinions.

            Before long, two soon-to-be friends and suitors, Laurie (Cameron Walker) and his tutor John Brooke (EJ Roach) are introduced. The men live with a kindly but reclusive neighbor, Laurie’s uncle, Mr. Lawrence (Travis Lehnen). Rounding out the characters is the faithful family servant Hannah (Elizabeth Cullens).

            The story twists and turns as petty disagreements between the sisters are dwarfed by the threat of illness and loss. Then the sisters discover the lengths they will go for the family they love.

            Director Rachel Clites-Cruz has assembled a wonderful team of technical artists and actors to bring this story to life.

            Wendy Cranford has designed and Frank Antonio constructed a colorful and warm set excellently furnished with antiques. Cranford also designed make-up allowing the cast of teenagers to portray a wide range of ages, for the most part very well. Costumes by Dawn Denison are charming and well-tailored, as are sound and lighting design, always a challenge in Twin Beach Players’ multi-use space. The teens running the show do a great job.

            The young cast, including many faces familiar to Twin Beach audiences, is capable and engaging. Though a bit stiff in Act I, the four sisters and their mother soon settle into their characters. By Act II, real smiles and genuine emotions rise. The introduction of the two young men, Walker and Roach, bring the leading characters out of their shells with some of the best and most honest exchanges of the show. This is particularly true for Meg and John Brooke, who make the audience take a collective sigh when they gaze into each other’s eyes. Olivia McClung’s performance is very strong as the free-spirited Jo. Brianna Boyer is captivating as Meg. Ashley Vernier and Riley Nikolaus as the younger March sisters both find their stride later in the play as their characters become featured in the tale. Keep an eye out for touching storytelling by Travis Lehnen and some nice moments from Elizabeth Cullens. 

            If love is the flower that grows in any soil, as Alcott says, it has certainly found a home here at Twin Beach Players, where this dedicated group has shared their affection for her story. Be sure to head out to see this lovely production of an American classic.

 

Thru June 25: FSa 7pm, Su 3pm, Twin Beach Players, 9021 Dayton Ave., North Beach, $15 w/discounts, rsvp: www.twinbeachplayers.org.

 

Parking may be difficult on Friday nights due to the popular North Beach Farmers Market.