by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
ABET’s final play of 2010 is Little Women and will be on their stage at the Adele Grage Center in Atlantic Beach until December 18th.
This is playwright John Ravold’s exquisite rendering of Louisa May Alcott’s Civil War era classic about the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, who share their loves, their joys and their sorrows. As a two-volume novel, it was successful from the start and remains just as popular today. Little Women has seen 14 movie adaptations starting in 1918. The leading roles attracted many of Hollywood’s top stars, including Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh, June Allyson, Mary Astor, Peter Lawford, William Shatner, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale and Claire Danes, just to name a few.
The John Ravold version that Director Erik DeCicco chose to produce was originally written in 1934. The script remains one of the most frequently chosen for stage productions, and concentrates all the action in the March’s New England home.
As the play opens, the family finds itself in difficult financial circumstances, with their previous wealth lost after the father tried to help a friend who could not repay a debt. Deborah Jordan who plays Mrs. March, or “Marmee” is very convincing in her role as a mother struggling to be strong for her four daughters while her husband Dr. March (Jack Barnard) is away as a Chaplin in the Union Army during the Civil War.
Meg (Michele McGovern) is the oldest and a romantic and the first to fall in love. The love of her life is John Brooke (Sam Smid), a tutor to a rich March neighbor Laurie (Erick Crow). They marry and have two children.
Amy (Katie Wann) is the youngest and loves art and improving her vocabulary. With the generosity of her rich aunt, Amy goes to Europe to study painting, but eventually comes home, falls in love and marries the handsome Laurie.
Beth March (Shannon Heath) is the quiet stay-at-home sister, beloved by her sisters, who becomes an invalid after contacting scarlet fever.
The family’s rich Aunt March drops in occasionally to flaunt her wealth and to add her opinion on family affairs. Annette Page is wonderful as the busybody aunt, a role she previous performed several years ago at Players by the Sea. She was a real crowd pleaser and a real favorite.
Jo March is an outspoken tomboy, and is a depiction of the author, Louise May Alcott. She is a writer and is very outgoing. This role is the most demanding of all the sisters as Jo must show various moods and temperament. Lesley Nadwodnik is wonderfully animated, reprising a role she performed back in Michigan previous to entering Jacksonville University as a Theatre major.
The final character in the play is Professor Bhaer (Jordan Schemmel), Jo’s mentor, who finds they share a mutual romantic interest.
The set by Jen Fortune is a Victorian parlor, simply furnished with an upright piano, a small writing desk, and an upholstered settee. The designer also shows us that the seasons change: Act I begins at Christmas in a New England winter, and we can see a heavy snow falling outside the window; Act II is set in summer, and we glimpse a flowering garden.
Allison Steadman’s costumes begin with simple gowns in calico prints for the young girls, with full skirts that reach the floor. In Act II, several years later, they appear in far more sophisticated gowns, with elaborate prints, which are delightful.
Director Erik DeCicco is a Jacksonville native and Jacksonville University graduate (where he now works as an Artist in Residence). He went on to the University of Louisville for his M.F.A in acting. Mr. DeCicco not only has impressive directing credits, but is a much in demand actor as well. He recently played the lead in The Full Monty at Players by the Sea. He cast Little Women well and under his expert direction everyone gave award winning performances, in our opinion.
Little Women is a play that has the power to touch hearts and to remind us of the true meaning of shared love and family bonds.
Little women theatre review
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM