Despite admirable effort, ‘Jane Eyre’ misses the mark

SUMMARY & RESULTS

The production ultimately finds itself into one too many pitfalls despite the efforts to keep things marching. There are strong qualities and an even stronger sense of sincerity in making this adaptation respectable. Yet the flaws that tend to surround the production find themselves becoming pivotal. You cannot help but applaud the effort, but you also cannot help but hope that the season’s best work is well on the horizon and that it does not go by the standards of its opener.

2.5

Review

  • Jane Eyre

by Ben Hargreaves
The Lance – Contributor

At every show before the lights dim, there is the reminder University Players is a training ground for students to become actors, to hone their craft and develop their skillset. After all few struggles are quite like the creative process, for even when work is ready; it is not the same as finished. You can only provide an optimal presentation backed by sound, natural creative judgments. In the case of ‘Jane Eyre’, the opening to UP’s 59th season, it carries this mantra like its predecessors before it, though not always successfully. The cast and crew participating in this production carry themselves in earnest. There are clear signs of the team putting both feet forward; making every assurance the show is the best it can be. The potential, however, becomes highly limited by a string of creative decisions that range from confusing to bewildering, stunting aspects from the narrative to the performances.

It is worth stressing that adapting ‘Jane Eyre’ on stage is no simple task. The fabric of the material drips with imagination and subtext that practically demands a careful touch. Jane is quite literally plain as a character and deliberately so. She is an orphan with no real sense of culture, intently repressing her innermost desires, which visually manifest as a woman trapped in an attic. The story covers years of her life, from her ushering into adulthood to her romance with Mr. Rochester, largely taking place within the confines of Rochester’s Thornfield Hall. It’s a story guided by thoughts and emotions, which usually paves the way for a compelling character study. Nevertheless, the production constantly engages in a creative tug-of-war where aspects manage to equally complement and contradict.

The primary issue in this production, which arguably is its most critical aspect, lies in the narrative direction.

Scenes move at quite an awkward beat because of excessive blackouts that disrupt the flow of the action more than they provide meaningful transitions. In some cases, you have scenes that occur in a flash and do not allow the audience time to absorb their content. On other occasions, you have scenes blacking out just for an ever-slight modification on the stage, which just feels unnecessary. The pacing moves at a frantic rate, moving too fast yet still feeling it’s doing so with one foot dragging along. It does not take enough time to let the value of the scenes properly sink in. This particularly hurts Jane’s development as a character. Passages of time are not properly established due to these rapid transitions, leading to the character`s arc to ring slightly hollow since the sense of progression generally lacks.

Several of the aspects of the production are strong in their own merits. The set is well constructed and the design of the attic visually expresses Jane’s inner-desires and its juxtaposition in select scenes. The lighting direction occasionally allows the production to be aesthetically striking, and while the costuming largely does little to enhance or hinder the experience, Jane’s outfit is very fitting given the circumstances. Many of the visual cues are on point, except for the odd projection that clutters the stage with colourful backgrounds. Stage space is also restrictive on the actors, as they stay rigidly within locations despite having enough space to make scenes more dynamic.

As far as the actors themselves go, it is difficult to pinpoint whether the creative decisions made were courtesy of directorial choices or the cast receiving some agency.

In any case, inconsistencies are abounding. It is worth considering how each supporting cast member tackles multiple characters. While some roles are more sizable than other ones, it can remain a balancing act. The supporting players put forth a commendable effort for the most part. Alicia Plummer well-embodies Jane’s inner-desires as a performance of clear and deliberate actions. Averey Meloche makes strong distinctions between his numerous characters, among them, being a very energetic dog, and Xanath Fuentes largely maintains a charming performance well worth engaging in. The remainder of the supporting cast pulls in a solid effort, each of them excelling in accents, though seemingly at the expense of articulation.

It is more unfortunate in this case than to have the weak links found in the two main characters. The romance between Jane and Rochester, respectively played by Lauren Fields and Cole Reid runs on an energy that borders on intrusive. Both performances feel one-note and lack in texture, with lines constantly exaggerated and lacking articulation. These styles seldom change whether they are both on stage or separate. The chemistry between the two is nearly non-existent, to the extent where it is difficult being convinced in their supposed mutual affection, especially when their characters seem to engage in constant shouting matches. Regardless if this was some creative misstep on the actors’ end or something purposeful in the direction, the story’s core relationship falls flat, amplifying the narrative seams already shown.

The production ultimately finds itself into one too many pitfalls despite the efforts to keep things marching. There are strong qualities and an even stronger sense of sincerity in making this adaptation respectable. Yet the flaws that tend to surround the production find themselves becoming pivotal. You cannot help but applaud the effort, but you also cannot help but hope that the season’s best work is well on the horizon and that it does not go by the standards of its opener.

’Jane Eyre’ runs every night from Sept.27 to Oct.1 at the Essex Hall Theatre, with a matinee on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. The show was viewed on opening night.

Tags:

  • Show Comments (0)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *

Ads

You May Also Like

CJAM FM Announces Tech Upgrade Pledge Drive Fundraiser

Your campus radio station, CJAM 99.1 FM, is holding their annual Pledge Drive Fundraiser ...

A Marriage Between Anatomy and Floral Imagery

by Hani Yassine The Lance – Arts & Culture Writer It was an attempt ...