"Little Women - THE PLAY" - by Kevin Cunningham - Theatre Of Northeastern Connecticut, Inc. at the Bradley Playhouse (Putnam, CT) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: The CAST of "LITTLE WOMEN - THE PLAY" by Kevin Cunningham at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT. through March 3, 2024. Photo Credit Ty Collige)



By Amanda Baldwin

Special METRMAG Correspondent Reviewer 

# 774-242-6724


“Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of people saying that love is all a woman is fit for.”
 

                                 - ("Jo")  / Louisa May Alcott


Theatre Of Northeastern Connecticut, Inc. 

at the Bradley Playhouse 

Presents Kevin Cunningham's

"LITTLE WOMEN THE PLAY"

A Faithful Adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Novel for the Theater

Written by Kevin Cunningham

Directed by Sarah Oschmann

Cast Includes: Laura O'Brien as "Louisa May Alcott/Hannah"; Jim Douglas as "Thomas Miles, Jr./Mr. Lawrence"; Brittany Kimlingen as "Meg"; Margaret McLoughlin as "Jo"; Katarina Bromkamp as "Beth"; Sophie Marcus as "Amy"; Amy Stoelzel as "Marmee"; Jake Wyse as "Laurie"; Jordan Miller as "Mr. Brooke"; Alan Marcus as "Mr. Davis/Dr. Bangs/Father (silhouette)"; Bonnie Theriault as "Aunt March"; Stephen Clark as "Professor Bhaer"

Additional Creative Team:

Stage Manager - Natalie Crino; Artistic Committee Liaison - Madeline Jaaskela; Assistant Stage Manager - Seth Crino; Production Manager - Jeanne Foley; Production Crew - Janet Mercer; Production Coordinator - Kathleen Atwood; Piano Sound Cues - Jordan Miller; Set Design - Sarah Oschmann; Set Artist/Design - Diana Lee; Set Painters - Maria Bessette, Amanda Bessette, Sandy Lazarou, Jasmine Gervais; Costume Designer - Teal Griswold; Costume Crew - Layn Mayen, Paisley Gothreau; Hair and Make-up - Rebecca Theriaque; Props Masters - Melinda Collelo, Bonnie Theriault, Janet Mercer; Light Designer - Carl Mercier; Light Operator - David Abbamonte; Sound Designer - Kathleen Atwood, Carl Mercier; Sound Cue Design - Alec Schwartz; Sound Operator - Seth Crino; Stage Crew - Finn Haney, Casey Stoelzel, Laurie Neal; Stage Construction - Ty Collige, Sarah Oschmann, Natalie Crino, Seth Crino, David Abbamonte, Casey Stoelzel, Amy Stoelzel, Laurie Neal, Jordan Miller, Nora Miller, Daniel Lastra Mercado, Finn Haney. 

Performances:

February 23, 2024 through March 3, 2024

(Contact Box Office for Exact Times) 

THE BRADLEY PLAYHOUSE, 30 Front Street (Route 44) in Putnam, CT.  

TICKETS:      

All seats reserved. Reservations may be made with a major credit card online at www.thebradleyplayhouse.org or by calling 860-928-7887.   

COVID 19 PROTOCOLS

Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.

The Theatre of Northeastern Connecticut at the Bradley Playhouse (TNECT) in Putnam, CT. has staged a memorable, reflective version of a time honored favorite in "LITTLE WOMEN - THE PLAY." 

The TNECT production of "LITTLE WOMEN - THE PLAY" is directed by Sarah Oschmann and is a story intended to be fun for the entire family. 

This version of "LITTLE WOMEN - THE PLAY" was adapted for the stage by Kevin M. Cunningham from the iconic novel by Louisa May Alcott

According to a press release, when Cunningham himself set out to direct a production of "LITTLE WOMEN," he sought a script that would authentically reproduce the voice of Louisa May Alcott’s original story. 

Not finding one, Cunningham opted to adapt the story himself, thus producing a script that is a distillation of the original book, resulting in this faithful TNECT theatrical adaptation of Alcott’s "LITTLE WOMEN." 

The one innovation Cunningham introduced was the inclusion of discussions between Alcott (Laura O'Brien) and her editor, Thomas Niles, Jr. (Jim Douglas) as she is writing the novel. 

Cunningham felt this gave the play a richer framework that represents the story as the product of an actual person at a specific time in history. 

For the February 23rd performance, despite some technical issues with microphones in the first couple of scenes, the actors did not allow this to distract or derail their performances.

The beginning of the show runs smoothly, especially in how Cunningham's script introduces us to each of the members of the "March Family" household.

A common complaint about previous adaptations is the omission of critical events in the Alcott story.

Cunningham has taken much of the dialogue directly from the novel, in an attempt to preserve or at least elaborate on the journeys of "March Sisters" Jo (Margaret McLoughlin), Meg (Brittany-Paige Kimlingen), Beth (Katarina Bromkamp) and Amy (Sophie Marcus).

(Photo: Jim Douglas as "Thomas Miles, Jr." chats with Laura O'Brien as "Louisa May Alcott" in a scene from "LITTLE WOMEN - THE PLAY" by Kevin Cunningham at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT. through March 3, 2024. Photo Credit Ty Collige)

The play's construct tells the "LITTLE WOMEN" saga in a string of vignettes, supposedly representing chapters of the Alcott book. A clever approach, for sure.

However, the above approach also contributed to some noticeably odd pacing and potential gaps in the narrative for those unfamiliar with the source material. 

During the TNECT staging, what seems a little more distracting is the emphasis on numerous black outs required, prolonging any necessary scene transitions and set re-dressings. 

With the above, in between scenes, the audience is left sitting in the quiet as things are moved about for a decent amount of time during the show’s collective run. 

What would help is to either incorporate the transitions within the actual scenes or by adding some kind of underscoring music to be used during these prolonged blackouts.

During some scenes in the first act, certain things are "pantomimed" or spaces onstage are used to re-enact events that happened between scenes, such as Amy’s being reprimanded at school or Meg overhearing gossip about her family. 

Again, a clever approach by Cunningham. In fact, it would have been nice to see these similarly utilized even more during Cunningham's second act.

(Photo: Margaret McLoughlin as "Jo" and Jake Wyse as "Laurie" in a scene from "LITTLE WOMEN - THE PLAY" by Kevin Cunningham at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT. through March 3, 2024. Photo Credit Ty Collige)

The TNECT production features many commendable performances. 

As Jo, Margaret McLoughlin stands out with her wit and charm, truly coming across as the 'glue' holding together the family. She also exhibited this with friends by the way she interacted with them all. 

Katarina Bromkamp portrays a sweet and emotional Beth, particularly working well in scenes with McLoughlin as Jo and Jim Douglas as Mr. Lawrence. 

Brittany-Paige Kimlingen and Jordan Miller are both a delight to watch as Meg and Mr. Brooke and play well off each other.

There is a lot of 'heart' in how the sisters and their mother, Marmee (Amy Stoelzel), interact with one another. 

Overall, a lot of care went into developing the family dynamic and how the "March Family" collectively evolves throughout the story.

Other noteworthy performances include Bonnie Theriault as "Aunt March," Laura O’Brien as "Hannah" and "Louisa May Alcott," Alan Marcus as "Mr. Davis," "Dr. Bangs" and "Father,"  Jake Wyse as "Laurie" and  Stephen Clarke as "Professor Bhaer." 

(Photo: "The March Sisters" of "LITTLE WOMEN - THE PLAY" (Brittany Kimlingen as "Meg," Margaret McLoughlin as "Jo," Katarina Bromkamp as "Beth" and Sophie Marcus as "Amy") at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT. through March 3, 2024. Photo Credit Ty Collige)

The TNECT set constructed by the TNECT teams, led by the show's director and set designer Sarah Oschmann along with set artist and designer Diana Lee, is very charming, with elements of the Louisa May Alcott "Orchard House" included within its design.

There is also a window that changes with the seasons - a lovely touch which helps the audience follow the timeline as the seasons change. 

However, because the home is situated up on a furnished platform that takes up a little more than half the stage, some blocking appears cramped at times and transitions from the house to other settings becomes a little disjointed at times. This might contribute to the aforementioned delays in set changes.

Costuming is period appropriate but there are a few wigs used which seem a bit distracting, as many look like they don’t quite fit comfortably (in that they are too big or bulky).

In the end, though, Alcott's "LITTLE WOMEN" saga, especially as presented by the entire TNECT cast, is still a charming piece of Americana and a heartwarming story that has endured over 150 years.  

Coming up next at the Theatre Of Northeastern Connecticut, Inc. at the Bradley Playhouse will be "I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE" by Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts beginning May 10th, 2024.

For tickets or more information, check out The Bradley Playhouse by visiting them online at www.thebradleyplayhouse.org or by calling them at # 860-928-7887.    

Approximately two hours with one intermission

Review Contributed by Amanda Baldwin - Special METRMAG Correspondent  

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) 

@MetrmagReviews

@Theatre_Critics 



ABOUT THE SHOW

The most faithful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's "LITTLE WOMEN" for the theater -- and for the casual reader.

Adapting a beloved 400+ page novel for the stage presents a challenge: can any theatrical version really stay true to the heart and spirit of Alcott's timeless "story about girls"? 

Many dramatized versions (both stage and screen) eliminate critical events, or even stop at the first half of the book, leaving you wondering: "Huh? What happens to Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy next? Where are my favorite scenes?"

Kevin Cunningham's full-length play version of "LITTLE WOMEN" is different: all the dialogue (and even the stage directions) are taken directly from the novel you love, preserving intact the full journeys of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. 

From their forlorn "Merry Christmas" through their heartaches, disagreements, tragedies, and joys; meeting new friends and finding their "heart's true loves"; taking their "pilgrim's journeys" from selfishness to compassion -- "LITTLE WOMEN THE PLAY" includes all the essential elements of Alcott's story.

ABOUT THE BRADLEY PLAYHOUSE

THE BRADLEY PLAYHOUSE is a 117 year-old vaudeville theatre in the heart of the Putnam antiques and restaurant district in the “Quiet Corner” of Northeastern Connecticut.  Since 1991, THE BRADLEY PLAYHOUSE has been managed by the volunteers of The Theatre of Northeastern Connecticut, Inc. (TNECT).  


ABOUT THEATRE OF NORTHEASTERN CONNECTICUT (TNECT)

TNECT produces eight main season shows per year and a number of special fundraising events for The Bradley Playhouse Restoration Fund. TNECT’s mission is to produce and sponsor quality theatre and entertainment for the residents of Northeastern Connecticut and the surrounding areas, to encourage the development of creativity through the support of local artists, and to support education and hands-on experience in the creation, direction, and production of theatre and the performing arts.

THE BRADLEY PLAYHOUSE

30 Front Street

P.O. Box 71

Putnam, CT 06260-1942

www.thebradleyplayhouse.org