NEIL BARTLETT’S POWERFUL ADAPTATION OF 'GREAT EXPECTATIONS' OPENS THE HOLIDAY SEASON AT THE SJSC
“GREAT EXPECTATIONS” CONTINUES TO EXPLORE SOCIAL INJUSTICE AND THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE
WITH A FIRST RATE CAST IN A POWERHOUSE PRODUCTION
The San Jose Stage continues their 39th season with an engrossing production of Charles Dickens’ GREAT EXPECTATIONS adapted by Neil Bartlett. After taking a walk through the downtown San Jose's Christmas Faire this is the perfect way to get your full dose of Dickens. Directed by Kenneth Kelleher, GREAT EXPECTATIONS features a powerhouse cast headed by TBA honoree Keith Pinto. This classic Dickens play closes December 12, 2021 at San Jose Stage Company. “GREAT EXPECTATIONS explores social injustice as well as universal human emotions and experiences, all equally relatable in the 1860s as in today’s world,” says Artistic Director, Randall King, “ 'Dickens’ message seems to float on a cloud of timeless relevance: to embrace optimism and hope, to be kinder to ourselves and others.”
Director Kenneth Kelleher says “Dickens is a masterful storyteller and the thought of realizing this particular adaptation of GREAT EXPECTATIONS with six extremely versatile actors, each playing many roles, is a unique opportunity to re-tell Pip’s tale using the leanest approach of reducing the story to its barest and intimate form.”
This is Charles Dickens’ classic, coming-of-age epic, featuring the incomparable Keith Pinto as Pip. GREAT EXPECTATIONS tells the story of orphan Philip Pirrip or Pip as he struggles through an impoverished youth and his harrowing encounter with the escaped convict, Magwitch, in the marshes of Kent. When he visits the wealthy spinster, Miss Havisham, he falls in love with her ward, Estella, with Havisham’s encouragement. An anonymous benefactor makes it possible for Pip to become a gentleman and move to London.
Pip with his inheritance assumes it’s the spinster's donation and becomes obsessed with the idea that it’s all been a plan to eventually see him married to his beloved Estella. Dickens is known for creating eccentrics but the way Bartlett endears these characters, director Kelleher and his cast give a more accurate depiction of the players. The tight remarkable cast plays numerous roles; Keith Pinto as “Pip,” Norman Gee as “Joe/Wimmick/Drummel,” Jennifer Le Blanc as “Compeyson/Biddy/Estella,” Julian Lopez-Morillas as “Magwich/Pumblechook/Jaggers,” Li-Leng Au as “Mrs. Joe/Miss Havisham,” and Nick Rodrigues as “Watzel/Sergeant/Herbert Pocket.” An accomplished cast that brings each character true detail and passion.
The jilted Miss Havisham is played by the stellar Li-Leng Au and beautiful Estella played by the marvelous Jennifer Le Blanc. It's all about Havisham’s revenge on the male dominance, the intrigue continues, with Pip traveling to London. Pinto as the younger Pip from within, sensitive, then heightens his adult realizations. La Blanc downplays Estella’s affections, and Li Leng is imposing and offers a grand disciplined but controlling Havisham. Norman Gee as Joe brings out the sympathetic side of Joe with a riveting performance.
Julian Lopez-Morillas is rich with character as the old convict and Pumblechook Pip’s pompous, arrogant uncle. Morillas is a Bay Area favorite who always brings his mature characters to his roles. Nick Rodrigues is most memorable as Pocket, Pip’s best friend and companion after Pip’s elevation to the status of gentleman. Rodrigues is dapper and clever in his performance alongside Li-Leng Au, one of the most accomplished actors in this cast.
Act two follows Pip's thrifty pursuit of Estella, the story's revelations and twists builds to a pondering conclusion fixed between Dickens’ original somber and revised conclusions. The unexpected plot twists that have charmed generations of fans who enjoy this climactic ending, an ending that Dickens rewrote in 1863. Yet Bartlett’s 2007 adaptation uses Dickens’ original, darker ending to the story.
The blinding red flames at Havisham’s climactic demise, features Maurice Vercoutere’s lighting design that is brilliantly atmospheric. Steve Schoenbeck’s dynamic sound keeps the bare stage full of character. Costumer Jean Cardinale dressed Havishan and Estella in Georgian-era earthy wear, and the men in dapper top hats and layers of darker moods and vests. Jenn Trampeneau's props dress the sparse San Jose stage as the set design is based on Trampeneau's perfect props. They include benches and wood chairs that double as elegant ball room tables filled with wine glasses and charm.
This staging of Charles Dickens, GREAT EXPECTATIONS proves Bartlett’s vision. It creates a rich evening of a Dickens ' journey and his vision of upper and lower class. Fagin undertones always in the shadows as this tight version of the story keeps the tale easy to follow. The gleeful outbursts and authentic performances easily meet Dickens fans greatest expectations. Add this deep journey of human emotions to your Holiday theatre plans and after a performance visit the San Jose Christmas Faire that is full of Dickens' heart.
SAN JOSE STAGE COMPANY PRESENTS
BY CHARLES DICKENS
Featuring; Keith Pinto, Jennifer Le Blanc, Julian Lopez-Morillas,
Li-Leng Au and Nick Rodrigues
San Jose Stage Company
490 S 1st Street, San Jose, CA 95113)
Must close December 12, 2021
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including intermission
TICKETS: $32 - $72 at http://www.thestage.org/tickets.
SUBSCRIPTIONS: $125 - $260 at https://www.thestage.org/subscribe.
Photos by Dave Lepori
For more information, visit www.thestage.org.
Kenneth Kelleher (Director)
Jean Cardinale (Costume Designer)
Maurice Vercoutere (Lighting Designer),
Steve Schoenbeck (Sound Designer),
Jenn Trampeneau (Props Coordinator)
Sarah Ellen Boynt* (Stage Manager).
San Jose Stage Company’s 39th Season RESILIENCE will continue with a fully staged World Premiere of STRANGE COURTESIES (February 2 - 27, 2022; Press Opening: February 5, 2022), Pulitzer Prize-winning AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (March 30 - April 24, 2022; Press Opening: April 2, 2022), and the rarely produced THE TOOTH OF CRIME (June 1 - 26, 2022; Press Opening: June 4, 2022).