Girl power

 

Firmly planted in the middle class, the March family has stood up to the Industrial Revolution, two world wars, and women’s liberation. If the four daughters — Jo, Beth, Amy, and Meg — created by Louisa May Alcott had real-life ancestors, those women would be at the top of their game. They’d be running things, because no one ever told a March girl she couldn’t do it all.

The Coterie‘s mounting of Paulette Laufer’s Little Women isn’t heavy on the proto-feminism. Jo (Kirsten Lundin) merely writes, and Meg (Dawn Youngs) is a man-chaser. But all-girl families (as well as all-female bands) will tell you about that invisible line that separates them from everyone else, and visitors must have an invite. When the well-bred boy, Laurie (Joshua Decker), becomes party to the March girls’ amateur theatrics, he’s like a stepsister or Alicia Silverstone’s gay boyfriend in Clueless — another member of the pack (despite his marriage to Amy).

Hillary Clemens gives the best performance of the family as Amy, the one who raises hell by burning Jo’s notebooks yet gets picked by Aunt March for a trip abroad. She’s a complete natural even in the play’s 19th century setting. And Sweet Charlotte, a white umbrella cockatoo, is an actor’s nightmare; she steals the show just by being such a specimen.

Gary Wichansky’s set tries to be too much in too many scenes; one geometric platform nearly outside the front entrance becomes a library, a dais, and Rome. And a crucial scene late in the play in which the family discusses Beth’s imminent demise is played in an awkward spot out of the sight lines of three-quarters of the house. But the basic foundation, the March attic that doubles as the girls’ makeshift theater, has a nice patina and beautiful floors.

Nancy Wagner’s prop collection is remarkable, down to the antique ice skates and delicate paper. There may be several dealers who’d like to make the theater an offer once the show closes. And Gregg Benkovich’s costumes are prim without being stodgy. They give these respectable girls a sense of propriety but are roomy enough for them to be wild and tomboyish when the mood strikes.

Little Women
through July 30

at The Coterie Theatre

Crown Center, 2450 Grand

816-474-6552

 

Categories: A&E