Presented by Peterborough Players: Second Company
Adapted by Gus Kaikkonen
from the novel by Louisa May Alcott
Directed by Charlie Morgan
Compositions by/adapted by Ellen Mandel
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Peterborough, NH) The adaptation of Little Women by Gus Kaikkonen for Peterborough’s summer stock is sweet and playful without being saccharine. Kaikkonen has concentrated the lengthy classic by Louisa May Alcott into five charming scenes. This play gives us the same adventures of the March family within a toddler-approved time frame of 90 minutes. The acting is strong from the Players’ Second Company. There is lovely entr’acte music by Ellen Mandel. Little Women is a healthy summer diversion in the forests of New Hampshire.
I’ve read Little Women at least twice. Once, as a girl going through a phase reading only female writers. The second time when I performed the opera by the same name by Mark Adamo. Alcott paints the March girls with vivid distinction. Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy are vastly different girls written with equal parts gusto. It would be easy to characterize them as being four fingers on one hand more, similar than dissimilar (Marmie is the thumb). It is more appropriate to characterize them as 4 separate souls tethered together by family. Morgan respects the individuality of these girls by allowing his actresses to develop their differences on stage. In turn, Hannah Dober (Jo), Hayley Ryan (Meg), Julianne Lawson (Amy), and Emily Hooper (Beth) release fully realized girls into the performance. They give excellent solo performances and as an ensemble. They have great sisterly charisma.
Shunté Lofton gives depth to Hannah Mullett, the March family maid. The same can be said about Corrado Alicata as Prof. Friederich Bhaer. These are small roles but their performances promise that were they playing feature characters, they would act with great aplomb.
Emily Reed displays great instincts in her performance as Aunt March. Her physical characterizations are spot on. She used the limitations of her character’s age and costume to great effect. Her Aunt March wooed the audience into laughter even as she terrified the other characters on stage. It is unfortunate that some of the other actors were not as detailed with their physical acting.
Between the scenes, the audience was treated to the compositions by Ellen Mandel. They were simple folk arrangements sung by the cast with guitar, violin and/or piano accompaniment. The music showcased the abilities of the actors while capturing the ethos of the Civil War era. The tunes are fleeting but leave a positive lasting impression on the production.
Little Women is everything good about summer stock; a melodramatic production that teaches even as it entertains. Should one be craving some family theatre (or even if one doesn’t) in New Hampshire, Little Women is a joyful dramedy with infectious energy and excellent production values.