BCP goes big with ‘Little Women’

By John Lyle Belden

Most of us, either by choice or school assignment, have read Louisa May Alcott’s 19th century novel “Little Women,” based on the lives of Alcott and her sisters. The book has also had several film adaptations, television airings, and – for our purposes here – inspired a 2005 Broadway musical with book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland, and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein. Thus adapted, the story is both familiar and new, and on stage at Buck Creek Players, directed by Cathy Cutshall, through this weekend.

The author is reimagined as Jo March, aspiring world-famous writer. Miranda Nehrig, who offstage is the answer to “what if Jo had become a lawyer,” boldly takes on the role with great presence, acting, and vocals. The show gives this central role a lot, and Nehrig shoulders it like a pro.

Alcott gave her literary siblings distinct, diverse personalities, to which our cast give full dimension: Jennifer Kaufmann smartly gives us Meg, the nurturing natural governess with sufficient charm to catch the eye of Mr. Brooks (Matthew Blandford), tutor to the boy next door, Laurie (Austin Stodghill). Jacoba White is sweet as shy Beth, happiest when alone at the piano, and capable of softening the heart of stern neighbor Mr. Lawrence (Brian Noffke). Hannah Partridge successfully accepts the challenge of making beautiful but bratty sister Amy likable, even as she matures into a social butterfly under ultra-prim-and-proper Aunt March (Jessica Bartley).

The ”little women” thrive under the care of mother Marmee March, with Heather Catlow ably portraying the bond that holds this family together with unending affection.

As for the men: Stodghill shines as the boy who becomes an honorary “brother,” yet finds himself yearning to be more. Blandford keeps Brooks appropriately upbeat. Veteran actor Noffke makes his turn look effortless. And Ben Jones is rock solid as Jo’s mentor, Professor Bhaer, even when the edges crumble as he considers his true feelings.

A fan of adventure tales and melodrama, Jo works on a story of derring-do that she hopes to sell. Its action comes alive with the help of Nathaniel Bouman as dashing Rodrigo. Other ensemble players are Kirsten Cutshall, Brandon Ping and Connie Salvini Thompson.

The plot hits the high points of the novel – comic and tragic, romantic and triumphant – so this show is a treat both for those familiar with it, or who only now discover this American classic.

Performances run through June 19 at the Buck Creek Playhouse, 11150 Southeastern Ave. (Acton Road exit off I-74). Get information and tickets at buckcreekplayers.com.

Secrets abound at BCP

By John Lyle Belden

Want to know a secret?

They don’t want me to tell. They don’t want any details leaking of “Trap,” the suspenseful hybrid of documentary, found footage and cutting-edge theatre, by Stephen Gregg, now playing at Buck Creek Players. They don’t want me to tell you what really happened at the Oak Box Theater in Menachap, California, why it’s haunted, why this is important. So many deaths, so many unconscious and dying.

So many cast members who are new to BCP. So many who are apparently 16 — this is also important. Have you heard of them? Do you know Dylan Albertson, Steven Allen, Ken Cutshall, Kirsten Cutshall, Ray Gron, Lauren Johnson, Stacy Long, Brigitte McCleary-Short, Rebecca D.M. McVay, Toni Riera, Lauren Ruddick, Ericka Dianne Ward, Caleb Weir and Rhiannon Wiggs? They make a good ensemble, playing multiple characters as the narrative demands, notably McCleary-Short as Detective Heche, Allen as the first-responder who refuses to give up, Ruddick as the one who knew something was going to happen, and Long as the one person who didn’t succumb in the “event.” 

To me, at least, the ending seemed predictable, but we let it come anyway. It was so interesting, a picture of infinity turning in on itself — where have I heard that? Anyway, ninety minutes of the first (only?) act, and then we are just let go. Or were we?

Something happened there. Perhaps you should find out as well, before the run ends on Oct. 6. The playhouse is at 11150 Southeastern Ave. (Acton Road exit off I-74); call 317-862-2270 or visit www.buckcreekplayers.com.