Monday, November 25, 2013

Tom Jones, Fielding's Novel Transferred to the Stage

A rollicking, classic sex farce in a vigorous presentation at Actors Theatre of Louisville

     Actors Theatre of Louisville (ATL) presents an ace production of Tom Jones through December 8.  Actually, we’ve never seen anything at Actors that wasn’t at least good and generally they’re excellent.  Jon Jory, who started the Humana Festival of New Plays during his thirty-one years as ATL’s artistic director, ‘freely adapted’ Henry Fielding’s 800 page novel, first published in 1749.  In outline, it resembles
John Osborne’s script for the 1963 movie, but it’s bawdier in spirit and more playfully imaginative because it doesn’t have to look realistic. Jory’s adapted Jane Austen novels to the stage, which has resulted in many productions across the country, and it’s been rumored that he’s actually the writer Jane Martin as well.

Dexter Joins the Cast of Tom Jones*
Drigan Lee and Susan Riley Stevens*
     Jory directs a polished ensemble.  I wasn’t sure about Drigan Lee, at first, as the sexually profligate Tom, but he really grows into the part and it’s the least showy one; he certainly looks good and he moves beautifully.  Maren Bush delights as Sophia, Tom’s true love, and both Alex Tavares and Susan Riley Stevens are polished and witty playing multiple roles.  Robyn Cohen embodies the obstreperously vital Molly in the first act and then plays the fashion doyenne Lady Bellaston in a style that seems like something out of Kabuki – funny but bizarre.  Matt Citron drolly pulls off a variety of characters, including an Inn’s Landlady without camp and a foppish Lord who tries to force himself on Sophia.  Alex Podulke displays a wide range and seems to physically morph; he doesn’t look the same twice.  I didn’t detect an accent from Greg Wood as Squire Allworthy, but I really liked him as Maclachlan. 
Squire Western, Tom, and Mr. Fitzherbert*
V Craig Heidenreich was a Hogarth etching come to life with a Rabelaisian force as Sophia’s father Squire Western; he was great.  One of the Apprentice Company actors – I wish I knew her name – offered some smart cameos as various maids and narrators.

The Fabulous Period Costumes*
     The sets and props by Tom Burch were suggestive of the period and physically easy to manipulate.  Marcia Dixcy Jory’s costumes seemed to jump out of Gainsborough.  They were historically fashionable and delineated character.  The wigs were also authentic and unobtrusive, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.  

     Tickets are going fast, though we think a couple of performances have been added.  It’s definitely worth seeing, especially for fans of Restoration or Sentimental comedy.

*Photos by Bill Brymer

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