Tag: Georgette Kelly

Review: Lighthousekeeping (New Leaf Theatre)


Every new beginning leads to a new beginning


Daniel McEvilly in New Leaf Theatre’s “Lighthousekeeping”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.

New Leaf Theatre presents
Written by Georgette Kelly
Based on the novel by Jeannette Winterson
Directed by Jessica Hutchinson
at DCA Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph (map)
through July 17  |  tickets: $18-$25  |  more info

Reviewed by Keith Ecker

New Leaf Theatre‘s world premiere of Georgette Kelly‘s adaptation of Lighthousekeeping shines as a poetic, touching and clever piece of theatre. Epic in scope and lengthy in duration, the play has a Dickensian quality with its tale of hardship, chance and maturation. The production’s highly skilled actors bring the Scottish countrymen to life and imbue the dynamic relationships with genuine tenderness and, as the case may be, ruthlessness.

Tim Martin and Daniel McEvilly in New Leaf Theatre’s “Lighthousekeeping”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.The play takes place in Cape Wrath, Scotland. The protagonist, Silver (portrayed as an adult by Tien Doman and as a child by Caroline Phillips), is sent to apprentice with the town’s lighthousekeeper after the untimely death of her mother. The lighthousekeeper Pew (Ron Butts) is an old blind salt-of-the-earth kind of fellow who enjoys a good Scottish yarn as much as he enjoys puffing away on his pipe. His grandfatherly charm serves to quickly forge a loving paternal relationship with Silver.

Silver attentively hangs on every one of Pew’s words as he relates stories of the sea and the strange men who have passed through Cape Wrath. One of these men, Babel Dark (Daniel McEvilly), is of particular interest. Dark was the son of the man who originally erected the great lighthouse. He was a minister, torn apart by his futile attempts to appear good in light of the sinister secrets he tried so desperately to conceal.

One day, a letter arrives in the mail at the lighthouse informing Silver and Pew that the beacon is set to become automated. Once more, Silver loses a home and a family and must find a new beginning. The play then follows her journeys as she weaves her own tapestry of true-life tales.

Doman and Butts are stunning. Like a couple of barnacles clinging to the hull of an iron ship, the duo latch onto the audience’s heartstrings, pulling you instantly into the action of the play. Like all little actresses, Phillips as young Silver is simply adorable. But she’s not just a cute face. The young thespian has an instinctive sense of timing and her ability to honestly emote is impeccable for an actress of her age. McEvilly as the two-faced minister roars like a lion when he reveals the character’s darker half. He succeeds in being deliberately shocking and frightening.

Lea Pascal and Daniel McEvilly in New Leaf Theatre’s “Lighthousekeeping”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.Although I am not familiar with the original work by Jeanette Winterson, this adaptation reads like poetry without the nebulous loftiness that often plagues such dialogue. Classic Scottish storytelling conventions, such as striking imagery and astute metaphors, are used throughout to great effect. And the plainspoken characters ensure that the script doesn’t approach contrivance.

With all the accolades that Lighthousekeeping deserves, there are a couple tweaks in order. The play’s second act, in which Silver sets out on her own journey, tends to ramble. As she gets lost in the world, the audience loses focus. Also, although there is overlap between the main plot and the story of Babel Dark, there’s not a clear connection as to why these two stories are being told simultaneously. Both are engaging, but jumping back and forth becomes confusing.

Lighthousekeeping is a masterfully executed adaptation. Performances are top-notch, and the script flows with the energy of a babbling brook. Although some may drift during the second act, the emotional ending will grip you, leaving you with moist eyes as you exit the theater to live out your own story.

Rating: ★★★½

Ron Butts and Caroline Phillips in New Leaf Theatre’s “Lighthousekeeping”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.

Lighthousekeeping continues through July 17th at DCA Storefront Theatre (66 E. Randolph), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 3pm.  Tickets are $25 ($18 for students/seniors), and can be purchased from the DCA box-office. More information at newleaftheatre.org.

All photos by John W. Sisson, Jr.

June 10, 2011 | 0 Comments More