By Shaun Szkolnik, for the Tribune
TRUSSVILLE — The beauty of a book is that its borders are only bounded by two imaginations: that of the writer and that of the reader. A play doesn’t have the same luxury. Once a thing is brought into the purely physical world, it is expected to abide by the purely physical laws, and in that purely physical world, the limitations are far harsher than they are in the realms of imagination.
So, it becomes the trick of any production standing behind the play to transcend and transport. First to transcend reality and then to transport the audience far, far away from the stage and from their seats. ACTA’s production of Little Women, which debuted Friday, gloriously succeeds at both.
Set on the periphery of the American Civil War, Little Women tells the story of the March women. Four young ladies of unique abilities, qualities and temperaments, being guarded and guided by their mother, whom they affectionately call Marmee. Based on the Louisa May Alcott classic, the play uses an ingenious framing mechanism, worthy of Joseph Conrad, and minimal set changes to tell this tale of love, laughter and loss that crosses over the world and across several years. Director Suellen Wilkins and a marvelous cast and crew have created a very fine show that is sure to please fans of the novel and movie adaptations of Little Women, as well as those that have no familiarity with the source material.
“After reading five versions of the play, I chose this adaption of Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ by Thomas Hischak because it didn’t cut parts just to condense the long novel,” said Wilkins in her director’s notes. “Because the story covers several years (1863-1868) and many characters, Hischak employs a narrator, Josephine (Jo) March who tells the story and ties the scenes together by providing background information. The four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy — continue to live in the hearts of readers. They face joys and sorrows as they grow up, fall in love and face life. Jo, of course, is Louisa May Alcott.”
Also worthy of praise is the cast. Each one gives a fantastic performance and, after seeing the play, it is hard to imagine anyone else in these roles. The play features Lara Moore as Mrs. Thomlinson, Jana Hoffman as Josephine March, Whitney Howton as Marmee, Kaytie Ellis as Meg, Susan Cook as Jo, Janay Deering as Beth, Kathleen Smith as Amy, Charleen Harbison as Hannah, Sarah Kuykendall as Aunt March, Ron Landry as Mr. Laurence, Shawn Reese as Laurie, Johnny Underwood as John Brooke, Danyelle Small as Mrs. Moffet, Megan Moran as Clara, Rachel Small as Jenny, Brence Daggett as Marty, Rebekah Platt as Sarah, Savannah Claire Tawbush as Katy, Lara Moore as Mrs. Kirke, Jenna Rutledge as Kitty, Mary Potter as Minnie and Curtis Frost as Professor Friedrich Bhaer.
Little Women is playing at ACTA Theatre this weekend and next and will be performed at the following dates and times:
Saturday, April 19 at 7 p.m.
Sunday, April 20 at 2:30 p.m.
Friday, April 26 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, April 27 at 7 p.m.
Sunday, April 28 at 2:30 p.m.
ACTA Theatre is located at 225 Parkway Drive. Tickets may be purchased here.