Review: Premiere of “Great Expectations”

In an era where modern society has experienced the rise and fall of fortunes, where social class is constantly being reexamined, the University of Parkside’s play Great Expectations transcends the centuries to deliver a performance that is nostalgic as well as relevant.

Based on the Charles Dickens novel, the Barbara Field adaption stays close to the original. The story goes through the life of a young boy bound by the hardships of society. The audience examines his hopes, his rise, and his fall that teaches the lesson quoted from the character Jaggers, “Never judge by appearances—irrefutable evidence, that’s the rule.” The evolution of love and compassion is hauntingly poignant for the characters, proving that relationships matter more than status.

Bobby Johnson leads the cast, delivering a reserved yet thoughtful portrayal of the Dickens’ protagonist, Pip. While the plot is considered a classic drama, newbie Kenjamin Lafayette, entertains the audience with playful anecdotes of humor. True to his ComedySportz background, his range of character voices, faces, and antics are perfectly delivered to break up the seriousness of the plot. One theater goer, Tom Webber, claimed, “The show does the book justice…I liked the added humor as well.”

Utility is something to be praised here. Actors are seen playing multiple roles, convincingly transformed by a costume change, an altered accent, and even different posture. Sound effects are mostly generated from the cast, themselves, seen by the audience to give dimension to the performance. Student Sam Crawford noted, “The stage setting and the use of the sound effects were aesthetically pleasing.” The idea to show the audience the belt snaps to signify a hand slapping the face or the tin cans tapping to visualize a horse’s clap seems to add to the mechanical instrumentalism of the late 19th century setting.

Debuted on Friday 24 February, the show runs through the next two weekends 24 February 24- 3 March with performances at 7:30 PM as well as a 2:00 PM matinee performance the 26th (no 7:30 showing) and an added performance on 2 March at 10 AM. For opening night, the show sold over 110 tickets, with seating room for 125. Ticket cost is low; only $7.50 for students while seniors and adult ticket prices are slightly higher. Please contact the Black Box Theatre box office for purchasing information at 262-595-2373.

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