Just in time for the colder weather, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company opens Little Women to warm the cockles of our hearts. While we may not have all read the book or seen any of the several screen adaptations, most are familiar with the story of the March family in some way. This particular stage variation of the Louisa May Alcott classic by Kate Hamill pays homage to the conventional story arcs: a family of four sisters and their beloved Marmie navigate the ups and downs of growing up in the complicated Civil War era.
Raves to Director Jemma Alix Levy who clearly knows the time-honored narrative well. Her casting decisions are to be commended as well as the pacing she sets as the story unfolds. Ms. Levy’s use of the stage area(s) is visually interesting and reflective of the mood of each scene. Per usual, the set is impressive. Scenic Designer Shannon Moore is able to make a space that is likely larger than the March’s main room seem very intimate and cozy. While the design of the March home is simple, it is the details in this simplicity which shine. I was particularly fond of the use of the clocks on the walls to signify passage of time when the action on stage would not necessarily have been clear (due to the way the story is written).
Brava to the notable performance of Emelie O’Hara who plays the coddled Amy March both in youth and into adolescence. Ms. O’Hara’s character choices were absolutely show-stopping in the best way. She is quick, smart, and decisive; her physicality is deliberate and tells you exactly who Amy is. Ms. O’Hara masters the art of making the audience dislike a character while loving the artist for it.
Further, the energy of Patrick Earl Phillips as Laurie is one of the best things about the show. As most of you may know (spoiler alert!), there are some very sad times among the March family members. Mr. Phillips’ mood in his turn as Laurie is such a wonderful juxtaposition from the necessary glumness presented in certain scenes. But make no mistake: it isn’t all happiness and leaps. Mr. Phillips will make you smile, blush, and then break your heart into a million pieces. In all transparency, every single actor in this seasoned cast is impressive and skilled. Cincinnati has talent, my friends!
While not entirely fond of the things this particular script eliminated from the original text, I believe audience members of all ages will find it a more relatable chronicle. It is not “modernized” in the sense of changing the time to modern-day, but most of its sensibilities are universally engaging where the novel may not be. However, I’d have preferred to know that this was more of an interpretation of the novel. I found myself getting anxious about how the script would cover everything on the horizon. Perhaps a different title or a footnote of “inspired by” might have been a good idea. In fairness, this can be a pitfall of any adapted text.
CSC’s production of Little Women is a perfectly-paced heart-warming tale of love, perseverance, and strength within both the families into which we are born and those we create. Be sure to head over to Elm Street for a wonderful evening which should help to kick off your holiday season. Little Women runs through December 3. Tickets can be purchased online by going here: https://cincyshakes.com/event/little-women/.