I’m probably the only former English major in the world that didn’t know the story of Great Expectations. I knew there was a character named Pip and that it was by Charles Dickens and that Mrs. Havisham is a crazy lady who stopped all clocks on her wedding day, but that was it.
While this probably says a lot about my tendency to choose less canonical writers to focus on in college, it actually set me up quite nicely to enjoy Strawdog Theater’s production of Great Expectations last night. The energetic production kept me on the edge of my seat wondering exactly what Dickensian coincidences would occur to make the inclusion of a convict running through a marsh necessary to a story of a “course common boy” becoming a “gentleman.”
Mike Tepeli charms his way through Pip’s story, backed up beautifully by the whole ensemble, but particularly memorably by John Taflan as his roommate turned best friend Hector and the chameleon-esque John Ferrick as both the heartbreakingly humble Joe and the smarmy rival for Estella’s affections. (I have issues with the character of Estella by the way, but those issues are with Dickens not the lovely Amanda Drinkall or director Jason Gerace so I’ll leave them to when – if ever – I get around to actually reading the book.)
To pull off Dickens with a cast of six is an achievement in of itself, and these six in particular were spectacular. (And judging by Julia’s equally enthusiastic reaction, even if you do know the story beforehand it’s totally worth seeing.)
The show runs through December 22nd at the Strawdog Theater at 3829 N. Broadway