The Sunday Salon: Little Women

In my last post covering my trip to Ireland, I talked about literary sites that we visited. Today, I’m going to talk about a real treat we had—we saw the Gate Theatre’s production of Little Women on our last weekend in Dublin. I have to honest, I was surprised when our professor said we’d be seeing this. I even briefly wondered if it was going to be set in Ireland instead of America. The Gate Theatre was just around the corner from our hotel, so we wandered over, took our seats, and watched it all unfold.

This version of Little Women has been adapted by Anne-Marie Casey and, like most adaptations of Little Women, cuts out a lot of the episodes in the lives of the March girls in order to focus on Jo’s life, Beth’s illness, and the love stories that result in the story’s wedded endings. Thus, the main themes become different kinds of female independence (in Jo and Meg’s differing views on marriage) and the role of family. Casey, however, incorporates more of Mr. March (the play actually begins with Mr. March writing a letter in the midst of war), and makes some slight changes—the German Hannah and the Hummel family are now the Irish Hannah and the O’Haras. Otherwise, however, things stay much the same. Oh, except that she killed off Mr. Laurence. We did not forgive her for this.

The set was simple and lovely—the set design used forced perspective and hinged walls to change from scene to scene, often humorously. The costumes were fine—nothing stood out to me, although it has been a while since I saw it. I will admit, it was absolutely fascinating to see Irish actors doing an American story. I like to look at my history from the views of those outside it; I think it offers an interesting perspective. So to see this beloved story in an Irish production was great, even if the American accents were a little broad at times.

The cast was quite good; the best, of course, was Lorna Quinn as Jo, all angles and mischief. Jane McGrath’s Beth was lovely. I forget, when I read the book, that Beth is nineteen at the end—I so often think of her as a little, innocent child, very Lucy Pevensie. But to see an adult woman playing Beth, and a Beth that’s even a little bitter about her fate, really drove home Beth’s agency. Aisling Franciosi’s Amy was as prim and annoying as you could hope, but I think the fact that a lot of the episodes that made Amy sympathetic were cut in the adaptation hurt her. Some of my traveling companions hadn’t read the book, and they now loathe Amy March with the fire of a thousand suns. Kathy Rose O’Brien’s Meg is maternal and warm, and the March parents are well-played by Lise-Ann McLaughlin and Michael James Ford. Marty Rea’s Laurie is a bit more goofy than I like (Laurie is dashing, not goofy), but Rea and Quinn have a warm chemistry that’s worth it. But I think my favorite, besides Jo, is Deirdre Donnelly as Aunt March, that most formidable spinster. Again, like Beth, I have an odd idea of Aunt March, as a bony invalid, but Donnelly sweeps in like Lady Bracknell and does whatever she pleases. I love it.

Of course, I know some of you are wondering how I felt about this rendition of Jo, Laurie, and Bhaer. Well, I’m never satisfied. I feel adaptations have an easier go when doing this, because they know that Jo ultimately ends up with Bhaer and can tweak all of Jo and Laurie’s chemistry to fit this. But they rarely do, because Jo and Laurie are meant to be together, etcetera, etcetera. The iconic scenes are kept—Jo and Laurie dancing when they meet and Jo flying at Laurie—but there are a few added. The family occasionally remarks on Jo roughhousing with Laurie, which, on one occasion, ends up with them in a compromising position. And, as ever, I didn’t buy Jo’s refusal. (I always feel weird about this. On one hand, I want to respect her agency in picking Bhaer. On another, Jo and Laurie forever.) And while Bhaer is played well, he and Jo just don’t have that romantic chemistry here. It feels more like two companions than two lovers, honestly, but it’s presented as two lovers here. So, no. I didn’t buy it. And it’s going to be the rare adaptation that does.

This week, I’ve managed to get through Crane Spreads Wings and Jane Bites Back. I’m currently reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which starts off alarmingly, but is alright so far. I will also be watching the film adaptation of Eragon on Wednesday with my film depreciation society, so that ought to be quite a treat.

Genevieve Valentine is giving away books and other things on her LiveJournal and on Twitter until an unknown date. MacMillian is giving away four EVE Online battleships until the fourteenth. Tor/Forge is giving away David Weber’s Safehold series until March 9th; you have to sign up for their newsletter. The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) Small Beer Press offers several of their books as free downloads, including Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners. If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!

Have you seen any stage adaptations of Little Women?

One thought on “The Sunday Salon: Little Women

  1. >>>On one hand, I want to respect her agency in picking Bhaer. On another, Jo and Laurie forever.

    *cracks up* That is the story of my WHOLE LIFE.

    I saw an opera of Little Women once and did not think much of it. However, I do not care for opera generally and may have been unfairly prejudiced against it.

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