Thursday, November 9, 2006

Going up

Our stage adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities opens tomorrow at 8 PM and runs until December 10 at the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre.  Tonight is dress rehearsal.


You can purchase tickets at the company's website:


          *          *          *


From my director's notes ...


Family (n):  a collection of apparently disparate individuals linked by one unifying factor – for example, blood.


The Charlens Company prides itself in its feeling of family – in a city like Los Angeles, this thespian group takes the time to care about each other, to spend time with each other, to love and protect each other.  Unique individuals linked by a common love for dramatic story.


It is for this reason significant that our first play this season is one that explores the meaning of community versus alienation – through the device of narration. 


The lives of two women dominate this play.  Both women have endured teen traumas of death and sexuality.  But Madame DeFarge chooses the alienating embrace of Vengeance, while Lucy Manette creates a Golden Thread from her life – one that unifies her extended family.


The story of A Tale of Two Cities was both historical and personal for Charles Dickens.  At 41, he was going through the trauma of a collapsed marriage within a Victorian society that revered stability.  It was the darkest period of his life – relieved only by his meeting a 17-year-old actress while performing in a play by his friend Wilkie Collins. 


Shortly thereafter, when historian Thomas Carlyle allowed his good friend to explore the original documents from the French Revolution, Dickens did what any good writer does – made it hisown story.


Torn between the expectations his world had for the literary star, and by his need for real companionship, Dickens forged three characters out of his own torment:  DARNAY, the young man haunted by his family’s past; MANETTE, the healer recalled to life from his grave; and CARTON, the brilliant, dissipated lawyer who cannot find the courage to claim the woman he loves – except in sacrificial death.


This adaptation of Dickens’ play does not pretend to be historical fact – it is one woman’s perception.  Confusing in time and place, we know only one thing:  this is the love story of a woman abandoned by the man who loved her most – in order to save the life of her husband. 


Thus, at the end of the tale, nothing has changed.  We sit in a battered nursery, listening to an aged woman struggling to understand what the central story of her life could mean.  Surrounding her – on colorful toy blocks of wood that they’ve used to help tell this story – sit the spirits of her family.  They don’t try to explain the story’s meaning.  All they can do is try to return her love – imperfectly, awkwardly, genuinely. 


Perhaps that’s all one can expect from any family.

No comments: