If you’ve ever wanted to experience the story of “Little Women,” but just never managed to take that dusty tome from the shelf of books you “should” read, first-time director Jannie Prawitz presents the perfect opportunity.
Chances are, if you have been to a theater production in Roseburg, whether at Umpqua Actors Community Theatre or Umpqua Community College during the past few years, Jannie Prawitz has had a hand in making that production successful. Whether she is acting on stage, assistant directing, working the box office, or stage managing, Prawitz has made herself integral to the theatre community.
Thursday night’s production was no exception. Prawitz made some great directorial choices — starting with her talented cast — that will draw audiences in to a classic that no one should miss.
Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” tells the story of the remarkable March family and their enduring strength during a time of war. Four daughters, each so different, are bound together by the strength of their adoring mother as they await their father’s return from fighting in the Civil War. With themes of love, loss, compassion, gender roles, and growing up, “Little Women” is a timeless story that has something that everyone can connect with.
Despite occasional odd and unnatural phrasing, notably in some of Marmee’s lines, Jacqueline Goldfinger’s adaptation tells the story well. Holding the family together with her incredible strength, warmth, and wisdom is Marmee, played by Kathleen Cole.
Marmee, the girls’ mother, always has an answer and makes every moment a teachable one. She is their guiding light. While in many works, the mother is a stock character with little variety, Cole brings so much depth to the character of Marmee. The true gift in this show is watching Cole’s acumen as an actress; Marmee presents a strong face to her girls, only allowing the audience to glimpse her vulnerability. Witnessing the humanity that Cole brings to the role is a worthwhile experience.
The little women — Catherine Pieske, Amanda McNulty, Abby Prawitz and Sianna Casey — had great chemistry together and gave us solid performances. Catherine Pieske is steadfast and competent as Meg March. Amanda McNulty brings a familiar intensity to the role of the headstrong and often very loud Josephine March. There was really no weak link, and with so many dynamic characters and a cast of seven, that is really something noteworthy.
The men in the show, Josh Carlton and newcomer Elliot Snyder, complete an already solid team of actors. Snyder plays the generous, well-meaning neighbor and friend to the March family. Snyder in particular gives a standout performance with excellent timing and an unpretentious levity that he brings to the text.
An evening of memorable performances awaits, and audiences should look to the littlest women of the group for great range and maturity onstage. Abby Prawitz gives us, perhaps, her best performance ever as the bubbly, budding artist Amy March. Well done.
Everyone will fall in love with Sianna Casey who plays the meek and “mouse-like” Beth March. Casey is capable, likeable and fun to watch. It is wonderful to see a stage full of talented young actors and I look forward to seeing all of them in future productions.
Beth March is counseled to ask herself, “What can I do now?” Audience members should call UACT right now and reserve tickets for this gem of a production. Fresh faces, great storytelling and a fantastic set (Melody Schwegel) await you in the newly redesigned Betty Long Unruh Theatre. Everyone will surely appreciate this timeless piece of literature brought to life by the talent of this community. “Little Women” proves to be an excellent choice to kick off what hopes to be a great 2013-14 season at UACT.
Ashley Dahl of Roseburg has been active in community theater as an actress, choreographer, director and volunteer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.