Saturday I went to see Theater South Carolina’s production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, directed by Steve Pearson. I was familiar with the plot of this American classic, but interested to see what new life would be brought to it.
The set was, as described in the script, quite minimalist: just a few chairs and tables set up on a wooden floor. The floor had a rich color that worked well with the lighting, and several sliding wagons. When the sliding wagons were moved, I thought it was interesting, but I hoped that there would be more configurations. Perhaps different locations would have new stage configurations? This was not the case. The stage was arranged in two or three simple patterns. All of the detail missing in the set could have been supplied by the actors’ imaginations, but that did not exactly happen. To me, the acting felt flat and unemotional. This was further exasperated by the New Hampshire dialect that all of the actors, to varying degrees, used. While it did set the scene as a small town in the Northeast around 1900, it made some actors hard to understand and they sounded nasally. It distracted me as an audience member.
Some parts of the show were lovely. The costumes were very period appropriate, set the scene for the show well, and functioned wonderfully. The same goes for the lights. Without lighting designer Ashley Pittman’s gorgeous and expressive lighting, the show would have lacked significant dynamism. With such a minimalist set, the lighting was almost entirely responsible for creating environment and attractiveness. Pittman achieved this beautifully. And I am in no way biased because she is a personal friend. My favorite moments in the show were created by the lighting. Emily and George’s scene at their windowsills in the moonlight was captivating; just watching the moonlight on their faces made the atmosphere so romantic. I also gasped right along with everyone else as the graveyard floor light up with stars at the end of the show. It was the best effect all night.
Overall, I wished the show had a clearer picture of exactly what the audience was to take away, but there was some beautiful imagery layered in to make watching the show a pleasant experience.
I picked Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier to read in October because I thought it would be a good spooky read. While there wasn’t anything supernatural in the novel, there was a great mystery and fantastic gothic elements. Often compared to Jane Eyre, this book is also a classic. Our heroine and narrator is never named. She tells the whole story from a first-person point of view, and all of the other characters simply refer to her as Mrs. de Winter. We begin with a whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo, where she meets wealthy widower Maxim de Winter, they quickly fall in love and get married. She is then whisked off to his mysterious estate, Manderley. It is then we begin to learn bit by bit about the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca, and the mystery unfolds itself.
The narration in the book is rich with detail and deeply personal. You know in each and every moment what the narrator thinks and how she feels. Often she will describe her imagining; thinking of the grandmother as a young woman, or the dog playing with fantasy children. Especially during tense moments, you can feel your stomach clench and knuckles whiten right along with hers. Some of the detail, however, drags in the middle. Hearing about every tiny aspect of settling into a new home makes that part of the book rather slow and tedious. Luckily, a major plot twist comes along to pick up the pace. The only part of the book that wasn’t beautifully fleshed out was the ending, which I felt was very abrupt. That may have been meant to add to the tense mysterious feeling, but, as a reader, I was somewhat unsatisfied. Perhaps there is a sequel I don’t know about.
One of the strongest aspects of the book, I felt, was the characters. Each one had a complex personality and a variety of motives, making them intriguing. You never quite knew what Mr. de Winter, the unsettling housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, or any of the characters would do next. So much of the book felt distant from me in suburban America; it was the profound humanness of the characters that helped to make the story real.
As a self-professed scaredy-cat, this book struck just the right spooky, mysterious note for an October read. If you liked Jane Eyre, this is definitely a book you should consider reading, but all fans of gothic literature or great storytelling will enjoy it.