I love going to the theatre on opening night when there’s a sell-out crowd and people are really engaging with the show. That’s why we all do live theatre, right? For the reaction and the vibrations the audience puts out. And, you know, the art of it all too. PICT Classic Theatre’s production of Jane Eyre had all of that for me- a tight cast who clearly loved performing, a full and interested audience, and even brand new seating (shout out to outgoing Company & Operations manager Dale Hess for his stellar choice in chairs)!
I’m personally very fond of the story of Jane Eyre, but when doing a period piece with accents, a good show can easily become distracting and mediocre. This was not the case with PICT’s production. The costumes, accents, and general energy of the players sold the story completely. The set was simple, very fitting for telling the story of Jane Eyre, who until the end of the story is a poor woman who lives life very plainly. The same can be said of the lights and sound effect; they were present but not distracting, just enough where they were needed without any frills.
Director Alan Stanford did a wonderful job with the blocking of the show, keeping different scenes clear and separate although everything played out on one stage with minimal set pieces. He clearly knew how to make the most of the space he had, keeping everything within the show simplistic while still staying clear of confusion.
This version of the story was told by an older Jane Eyre (Cary Anne Spear) who narrated the story of her life, sometimes interacting with the ghosts of her past as she did. Spear displayed emotions flawlessly given her subdued part in the story. Caroline Lucas, who played Jane as a child, and Karen Baum, who was the adult Jane we saw for most of the show, all shared the same mannerisms as Spear, tying together their connection beautifully.
Baum herself was enchanting to watch. She managed to captivate the audience, and everyone was rooting for Jane throughout the show. Her interaction with Paul Joseph Bernardo as Edward Rochester played up the slow burn of an unconventional relationship perfectly. Their on stage chemistry was evident from the moment their characters met. And although I thoroughly enjoyed the Janes, Bernardo stole the show for me. He had the ability to convey the subtle emotions and inner turmoil that is bestowed upon a Victorian male character through a facial expression or simply the way he spoke certain words. Truly he is a master of the art of showing rather than telling, drawing attention to himself even when he wasn’t speaking. And the chops and boots didn’t hurt, either.
Of course, a show wouldn’t work as well as this one if the whole cast didn’t come together to play off each other and keep every scene clean. Many of the background cast claimed the spotlight for a moment or two, delivering hilarious lines and conveying their character through background interactions. Many actors played several characters in the show, but none of the characters ever felt like they were just shoved into a scene to be a body in the crowd. With such a straightforward playing space, there was little room for anyone to be anything but “on” from the moment they hit the stage. And if anyone was off their game, I certainly didn’t notice it on opening night.
It’s no surprise that PICT was able to pull off such an enjoyable show from a classic piece of literature. They’ve done the same very well with countless productions in the past. The show does run a little long, but no one can possibly be surprised at that knowing it’s adapted from a novel by a Bronte sister. That being said, I never felt tired or bored while watching it. And as long as the cast retains their opening night energy, I doubt anyone else will either.
Jane Eyre runs at WQED’s Fred Rogers Studio through April 28. For tickets and more information click here.
Categories: Archived Reviews