Saturday November 18th 2017

Great Expectations

Highly Recommended ****  What happens when a classic story, in fact, not just a classic, but a Dickens’ classic, is transported in location? The classic is “Great Expectations” and Tanika Gupta has adapted this classic, moving it from England to India. She has used 90% of the actual dialogue, but as one who has seen this story many times, the transformation to another culture is quite effective. Adding to the specialness is that this is a joint production of two notable theater companies. Remy Bumppo (“think theatre”) and Silk Road Rising (Middle East and Asian theater) have joined together to bring this work to the stage.

Under the direction of Remy Bumppo’s Nick Sandys, who cleverly utilizes the stage area in the Historic Chicago Temple Building/Pierce Hall, this three -plus-hour production (with an intermission) never feels long. In fact each of the acts moves swiftly from scene to scene telling us the tale of young Pip (Anand Bhatt brings perfection to the development of this character) who is poor and gentle, but generous to a fault. Events that take place change his life dramatically as he comes of age, meets wealth, has wealth thrown at him and is told that he has “Great Expectations”.

The story is long and to do a synopsis difficult, but it is a story about a poor boy, Pip who because of his kindness to others he encounters while growing is taken from “rags to riches”. By moving the story to India Gupta has also shown us how different cultures also have class and money problems. Pip aids a convict who had done no wrong (this is what they all say, isn’t it?), but in this case, the convict was “black” . Magwitch (deftly handled by Robert D. Hardaway) as it turns out begins a new life and later compensates young Pip for his kindness.

Pip also befriends a wealthy and  elderly lady, Miss Havisham (Linda Gillum) who was left at her wedding and has become a bit crazy ever since. Her adopted daughter Estella ( the charming Netta Walker with a smile that will hypnotize you) is Pip’s true love, although it never comes to be, but changes his life as he becomes a man. He is brought to Calcutta where he becomes a “gentleman” in training and during this time things change in his village and those he left behind prosper from his goodness as well. While the ending is not what you might expect or anticipate, Pip does realize that he has become a better man and that his expectations have been met.

This is a solid production with a wonderful cast of players. Many of these actors play multiple roles as they leave the stage, change and re-enter as another. Anish Jethmalani ( Joe) is Pip’s mentor, Roderick Peeples (the attorney Jaggers who starts the process for Pip),  Raj Bond, Lane Anthony Flores ( Herbert, who is Pip’s roommate and confident), Tommy Malouf, Siddhartha Rajan, Rasiki Ranganathan ( Biddy, Pip’s best friend) and Alka Nayyar (in several roles). Great work!

The direction is superb with Sandys (who also does the fight choreography) and his co-director Lavina Jadhwani working together. When two companies work in a union such as this, it is wonderful to see memebers of each company working together. The set (Yeaji Kim, who also did the projections) is simple, yet workable, in that the stage in Pierce Hall is fairly open. The lighting (Lindsey Lyddan), sound (Spencer Batho and Ronnie Maller, who also wrote the original music) is perfect. note: I have yet to get my hearing aids, and heard every word in this production! The costumes (Elsa Hiltner) were wonderful as were the props (Abigail Cain) and the Choreography by Alka Nayyar enchanting.

There is a special insert in the program with a Glossary of Terms from the production. Words like “didi” (meaning older sister or female cousin), “The Hulks” (floating prison ships), “karma” (meaning the belief that who we are today is based on our actions in a past life, which governs one’s actions in the present) and many others. I suggest reading these prior to the start as it will help in understanding the language of that era and place. This is a solid production that has blended two theater companies flawlessly into one for a special production of a special play, “Great Expectations” in a unique and different platform , giving an old classic a new and wonderful look.

“Great Expectations” will continue at The Pierce Hall located at The Historic Chicago Temple Building , 77  West Washington Street (at Clark Street) through July 2nd with performances as follows:

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  3 and 8 p.m.

Sundays  4 p.m.

Tickets are only $35 ($15 for students) which is amazing for a production this solid. A truly memorable theatrical experience and can be purchased by calling 312-857-1234 ext 201 or online at www.GreatExpectationsPlay.org

To learn more about these two companies, visit http://www.silkrising.orgor www.RemyBumppo.org

Parking is difficult in the Loop, but there is discounted parking at  Washington/Madison Wells garage, enter at 172 West Madison (just a short walk to the theater). Only $6.00 (a great value)

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Great Expectations”

 

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