Through May 22|
LITTLE WOMEN…NOW Road Less Traveled Productions/RLTP Theatre
Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” is one of those canon books for young women.
I know my sisters read it, my mother probably did and I wouldn’t be surprised if my nieces did.
It’s a tale of a mother and four daughters in Concord, Massachusetts, waiting for their Civil War army chaplain father to return from the war.
They live in genteel poverty in a prosperous, intellectual town because father used his money to bail out a friend.
They grow up.
They meet boys.
In the second half of the story, they marry and have children and deal with adult life.
This second half was originally written as a sequel, until it was merged with the original, to make it the book usually seen today.
It’s a tale of a time and a place, with issues and social structure echoing down to our time.
Donna Hoke has taken the two-halves of the story and made it relevant to our time, in “Little Women…Now.”
Director Doug Weyand made it even more relevant with a diverse cast, on Dyan Burlingame’s fine set.
Here, Mom (Lisa Vitrano) and the four daughters, Meg (Brittany Bassett), Amy (Sabrina Kahwaty), ailing Beth (Heather Gervasi) and Jo (Alexandria Watts) live in that same genteel poverty as their literary ancestors because Dad is far away, helping with an extended family emergency.
Mom has a restaurant job which keeps food on the table and the kids do what they can.
The family has all of the problems of any group in these difficult situations, complicated by Beth’s long illness and the usual problems of being a teen.
There are also the internal family dynamics of sniping and unhappiness, dealing with growing up.
The large TV screen on the wall shows they aren’t immune from the world around them.
The family is also part of an extended neighborhood, like Laurie (Jake Hayes), up the street in a house owned by this rich grandfather, who is interested in Jo.
There’s also older neighbor John (Ricky Needham) who is interested in Meg.
They hold off on marriage and children until they are a little older and wind up with twins, whose needs start interfering with Mom and Dad’s relationship.
It’s all tangled because the events are never simple, capable of being resolved in a 30-minute episode of a sitcom.
It’s also messy, with tragedy not far away.
It’s all 21st Century life and we all know that’s not simple or easy, even with no mention of COVID.
Director Weyand does a fine job of keeping the production moving, with direction complicated by a tangled story and lots of doors on stage.
We also learn that Meg and Laurie never completely get together, with a quick scene showing the now college teacher and writer is more interested in members of her own sex.
Clearly, it’s a transplanted story from a different time and place.
That’s all right.
How often is Shakespeare transplanted from whenever the story is set to a different era or even century?
If thought through, that time shift can work and it does here in “Little Women…Now.”
Family dynamics have changed greatly since that slice of Civil War life, closely based on the Alcott family life.
Yet, some things don’t change, close families, troubled marriages and the growth to adulthood.
That’s why Hoke’s “Little Women…Now” is worth seeing.
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