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Fulfilling 'Expectations'

November 24, 2010|By Lisa Dupuy
  • Performing in Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" are Deborah Strang, left, (Miss Havisham), and Jaimi Paige (Estella) at A Noise Within.
Performing in Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations"… (Craig Schwartz )

Creative, professional and energetic, A Noise Within's adaptation of "Great Expectations" is a force to be reckoned with. The cast and crew of Glendale's classical theater company take on the Charles Dickens novel, brilliantly adapted by playwright Neil Bartlett and shrewdly directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott, with their usual artistic flair. It is a study in emotional and sensorial manipulation with a pace that borders on frenetic.

Dickens initially wrote "Great Expectations" in serial form for his magazine "All the Year Round," so the choppy shifts in locale are inherent to the story. Bartlett and the Elliotts drive home this idea by having frequent and busy scene changes throughout the play. Almost every piece is on wheels, and they come clamoring in from various places.

Sound (designed by Andrew Villaverde) plays a big part in this production, with metallic banging and jarring foot stomps, as well as mournful whispers and loud cries from individual characters and from the highly theatrical chorus. The lighting (by Ken Booth) is dramatic, the costumes (Angela Balogh Calin) are sumptuous, the music (Doug Newell) is forceful, and the ensemble acting is pretty much flawless.

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Pip, played by Jason Dechert, is at the center of "Great Expectations." He is like the sun around which planets, with varying gravitational pulls, orbit. Dechert does a fine job interpreting all the phases of Pip's life—as a scared little boy on the marsh, as a bewildered teen in the home of Miss Havisham, as a snooty, entitled young gentleman and finally as a man who can forgive. In reading the playwright's notes, Bartlett saw Pip as ravaged and angry. But I did not see Dechert's Pip this way. Yes, the orphaned Pip is emotionally manipulated by the forces in his life, none of which can be trusted as one trusts a parent, but he seems fairly mature and self-composed. If that's what he was going for, it worked.

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