“Little Women” makes lasting impression

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Directed by Jenn Marie Bailey and Katie Karnes, “Little Women” was a sweet portrayal of the importance of family and friends. Over two weekends Corban College Theatre Arts presented Peter Clapham’s adaptation of the book by Louisa May Alcott to more than 2,000. Bailey brought passion to the play’s staging while Karnes produced intimacy between the characters, and the elaborate set allowed theatre-goers to feel right in the room with the March family.

Highlights from the 11-person cast’s performance include freshman Courtney Baker’s acting debut with a horrific baby-of-the-family temper tantrum; onstage kisses—one on “accident” while the other very much on purpose; verbal exchanges with the cantankerous Aunt March, played convincingly by senior Jodi Hamre; and the dynamic role accomplished by freshman Sophia Tremaine as the dramatic Jo March.

To senior Angela Fowler, the show’s lightboard operator, closing night was bittersweet. Since she will be graduating in May, it was the last of five plays she’s helped create at Corban. Yet she delighted in the evening’s surprises, her favorite part of show work: something new happens each night.

The finale performance proved no different. When characters Meg March (junior Lanae Gehring) and John Brooke (senior Nathan Furumasu) discover a budding romance, they awkwardly bump into each other with a tray full of tea. At the last showing they collided instead, and more than once the “tea” was spilled. As they remained in character, they brought hilarious adlibbing to the scene. “I’ve prepared some tea for Marmee—if there’s any left,” said Gehring, who proceeded to shake out the last drop.

Audiences also engaged fully with the costumes, made by experienced designer Judy Rowe, and the set, which looked like the inside of a period house. Details made an impact. Viewers peeked through the built-in window to see characters come and go from the porch. The hand-stenciled, crown wallpaper rose magnificently, and even the above-the-mantle portrait of Mr. March was photo-shopped to actor Matthew Gossien’s image. Technical Director and Set Designer Josh Bartlett, along with assistant Rich Rowe, well exceeded 40 hours in the stage’s design, and Props Master Ashley Kennedy added authenticity to it.

Visually and emotionally, audiences connected with Corban’s spring play. Director Jenn Marie Bailey expresses the timelessness of the show, “This story is placed in a time when economic hardships were coupled with war. As this country reels from our own current situation, Little Women is a reminder that there is hope in family and friends, that we as a community must lean on each other to succeed, that we are not the only generation to experience such a hardship and there is an end just as there is a beginning.”

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