Little Women, UPJen Gurniak

Little Women by University Players

The University Players’ production of ‘Little Women,’ which opened this past weekend at the Essex Hall Theatre, is a sight to behold. Director Kerry Ann Doherty’s vision has been beautifully translated onto the stage, creating a living, breathing storybook that captivates the audience from start to finish.

The stage itself is a work of art, with a flowing floor that extends beyond the edges of the stage and a cutout in the shape of a house. Video projections and passing dates are displayed at appropriate times, adding to the sense that the audience has stepped into a pop-up book brought to life.

 

The play, based on the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott, follows the lives of the March sisters – responsible Meg, fiery Jo, gentle Beth, and artistic Amy – as they navigate the challenges of growing up during the Civil War. With their father away serving as a chaplain in the Union Army, the girls rely on the guidance of their devoted mother, Marmee, as they face hardships and heartbreak while never losing sight of the importance of family.

One of the strengths of this production is its ability to capture the essence of Alcott’s novel while condensing it into a stage-friendly format. Playwright Marion Defrost has skillfully woven actual dialogue from the book into the script, ensuring that the spirit of the original work shines through.

The relevance of ‘Little Women’ in the modern age cannot be overstated. The novel’s subtle feminist themes, such as women’s aspirations, independence, and the pursuit of careers, continue to resonate with audiences today. Through characters like Jo March, who rebels against traditional gender roles and expectations, the story inspires generations of viewers to forge their own paths in life.

The cast of the University Players’ production does a fine job bringing these beloved characters to life. Lilly Battista shines as the fiery and ambitious Jo, capturing the character’s rebellious spirit and unwavering determination. Alexa Dimoulas brings a sense of responsibility and grace to the role of Meg, while Sierra Farnham’s portrayal of gentle Beth is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Gaia Martin del Frezno rounds out the March sisters as the artistic Amy, delivering a nuanced performance that showcases the character’s growth throughout the story.

The supporting cast is equally impressive, with standout performances from Tobi Usman as Mr. March, Avery Thomas as Mrs. March, and Aidan Robertson as the kindhearted Mr. Laurence. Jack Meadows brings charm and wit to the role of Laurie, the March sisters’ neighbor and friend, while Jackson Balint’s portrayal of Professor Bhaer adds a touch of romance to the tale.

Director Kerry Ann Doherty’s focus on the bonds of love that carry the characters through adversity is evident in every scene. The intimacy and authenticity of the relationships portrayed on stage are a testament to the hard work of the cast and crew, as well as the guidance of intimacy director Megan Quinn.

The emotional depth of the story is palpable, with moments of laughter and tears throughout the performance. The cast’s ability to convey the warmth and love of the March family home is a true testament to their talent and dedication. With its stunning visuals, talented cast, and heartfelt performances, this may be one of the University’s finest and most popular shows to date. It is a must-see for anyone who appreciates the enduring power of family bonds and the resilience of the human spirit.

“Little Women” continues at Essex Hall March 21 to 24. Tickets are available at universityofwindsor.csstix.com.

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