Great Expectations

Neil Bartlett’s translation, in conjunction with Geoff Elliott (who nimbly performs two idiosyncratic roles) and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott’s staging of it, strips Charles Dickens’ sprawling novel down to its two central threads. The stage result is less textured than the page result, but that may be a necessity of the theater. Brought here into sharp focus are two plots, one personal and the other social. The first contains the ironies accompanying the change of fortune after young Pip (nicely played by Jason Dechert, bewildered as a youth, then with a growing if muted arrogance as an adult) steals food for escaped convict Magwitch (the excellent Daniel Reichert). Magwitch will repay the young man with a kind of bounty that will leave him utterly perplexed – sending his morals crashing into his class consciousness. The interweaving story concerns the morbid and ancient Miss Havisham (Deborah Strang, glorious, as always) and her perverse, revengeful plot to break Pip’s heart through the pawn of her beautiful niece, Estella (Jaimi Paige). In this production, that plot is really the emotional heartbeat, thanks to the chemistry between the actors. The crisply staged production features innumerable eccentrics who float through this dual spine structure. The result is far less picaresque than the novel, yet for all the strengthening of the two main cross-beams, the drama is, ironically, more ambivalent in its conclusions. Even Dickens’ feed-bad, feel-good blend of despondency and sentimentality is here muted, when you’d think that such a structural paring down would result in a clearer view. Nonetheless, I found that ambivalence oddly appealing. A few over-wrought performances tempers this otherwise robust production. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; in rep; call for schedule; thru Dec. 10. (818) 240-0910.
Sat., Oct. 30, 8 p.m.; Nov. 10-12, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 21, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 27, 2 & 8 p.m.; Dec. 9-10, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 18, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 19, 2 & 7 p.m., 2010

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