The austere beauty of Julia Rodriguez-Elliotts staging (of Neil Barletts excellent adaptation) comes from a haunting blend of musicality the 14-member ensemble sings the opening and closing recitations in a rousing, pitch-perfect a cappella, and much of the theatrical tension comes from the rhythmic clanging of sticks in unison, while Endre Baloghs violin accompaniment tilts the tone away from Dickens sentimental world of orphans and villains, good and evil, and rich and poor and into a pool filled with more contradictions and ambiguities. Soojin Lees costumes capture not only the era but also the grime and dereliction of Victorian London. Dickens novel is a saga of human trafficking, and Brian Dare portrays the smudge-faced 10-year-old victim, orphan Oliver Twist, with a subtly pained glint in his eye, which reflects his punishing fate. Tom Fitzpatrick brings a marvelous gruffness to Fagin, the leader of the pickpockets, who adopts Oliver for a while; Geoff Elliott has a delicate turn in drag as proprietress Mrs. Sowerberry; while Robertson Dean also stands out for his clearly enunciated and richly tempered array of characters. Jill Hill is becoming mistress of the femme fatale for this troupe; her no-good-deed-goes-unpunished Nancy comes packed with understandable paranoia and glimpses of kindness. The director opened the show by pleading for contributions, as the theater has a campaign for a new theater in Pasadena. I know its a bad time, she told the audience, but we didnt pick the time, the time picked us. She did, however, pick this play, and the time is perfect for it. A Noise Within, 234 N. Grand Ave., Glendale; in rep, through Dec. 14; call for schedule. (818) 240-0910, Ext. 1.
Sat., Nov. 8, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: Nov. 8. Continues through Dec. 14, 2008