If you’re a fan of the children’s classic novel “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, you will adore this adaptation by Tier5 – and even if you’re not a fan or have never heard of it, I promise you that you will not only love this adaptation, but that you will run out and read the novel. I’ve read it many times and I’m about to crack it open once more to enjoy the book in a whole new way after seeing this hilarious and modern and faithful and Mufasa-level-tear-jerking production by Tier5.
The play and performance overall was dazzling and not to be missed.
I’ve seen the Broadway musical of “Little Women” and I was a bit concerned when this show began in almost exactly the same fashion – with Louisa’s imaginary and extravagantly dramatic literary creations leaping around the stage brandishing swords (albeit umbrella-swords in this version) and crying for Rodrigo. But, the air cleared quickly (and literally) when rather than authoress Jo, Louisa herself was found at the writing desk and rather rudely interrupted by Niles, her publisher.
After being pushed quite unwillingly into writing a girl’s morality tale, Louisa begins to draw inspiration from her childhood with her sisters. Along the way, she grapples with some truly complex emotions about the past that served to illustrate how the text of “Little Women” offered Louisa reconciliation and healing, even as she amended certain storylines to create heroes or offer a villain forgiveness.
I know that some people will be thinking that this will be a boring play – well, not when you have John “f-‘n” Brook and other updated language that makes for a laugh out loud update that brings out the completely contemporary emotions of characters from the Civil War Era. It just goes to show that not much has changed in the human experience.
The play is broken up delightfully by wonderfully choreographed dances, often set to modern music and with modern dance moves blended with traditional which again serves to keep the story fresh and exciting. Especially poignant are Louisa’s struggles with her own gender identity and orientation – the cast shared that the material was drawn from Louisa’s historical letters and journals so there is no fiction there and it adds to the heartbreaking sadness of Louisa’s very lonely life despite the joy she finds from her sisters.
The raw emotion portrayed by Jo (actor Amy Frey) when sister Beth dies brought the whole audience to audible tears. Bring tissues. You’ll need them. But no less powerful is Hilary Kelman as Louisa – her silent stillness and stark stare whenever her departed sister Lizzie is mentioned gave me chills. The depth of sorrow and grief that she portrayed was palpable and made the impending death scene that much more heart-wrenching.
Every single actor did an incredible job, but I do have to say that Martine Fleurisma as Meg really had me in stitches with her comedic flair. I also greatly enjoyed Brandon Thomas Martin’s comedy chops as Jenny Snow.
The play and performance overall was dazzling and not to be missed. I do wish that either in the program or after the show the playwrights would have explained Louisa’s “what next?” as I was left questioning if she remained alone her entire life or ever embraced her orientation and gender identity and I would have loved to have my curiosity satisfied.
I would encourage the cast to clean up a bit of the execution – at the beginning of the show, lines were spoken so fast that they couldn’t be understood. Also, the piano at the beginning of the show was overly loud and the lines spoken over it couldn’t be heard clearly. However, aside from these minor technicalities, this was an entertainingly whimsical, ridiculous, but heartfelt and true-to-novel take on “Little Women” and on the life of its lonely and questioning author, Louisa. I highly recommend that you catch the final performance.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with no intermission.
Advisory: Profanity. Recommended for mature middle schoolers and up.
“meg jo beth amy & louisa” by Tier5 plays through July 24, 2019 at Capital Fringe Festival. For more information, click here.