Chicago Theatre Review
A Dickensian Delight at Lifeline Theatre
Lifeline Theatre – A Tale of Two Cities
Lifeline Theatre’s “A Tale of Two Cities” is a suspenseful and emotional journey to the past. A winning (Christopher M Walsh) adaptation of this classic story is brought to a rich life.
Countless people have read this classic Dickens’ tale about loss, duty, patriotism, forgiveness, and ultimately sacrifice. I think it was required reading on many book lists when I was in school.
The beginning of the book and the end of the book are often quoted in common culture.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
A Dickensian story to be sure. So…It begins in 1775 with the back drop of the French Revolution. The two cities are England and France.
We meet the DeFarges, who have taken in Mr. Manette after his incarceration. His daughter Lucie shows up to take him to England.
France falls apart and the revolution has begun.
So Lucie and her father lead a good life in England. She meets Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. Of course she falls in love and marries former aristocrat Charles Darnay. Sydney Carton is drinky, sad and impetuous, but his love for Lucie will always remain.
Darnay’s former servant is imprisoned and of course he must go back to France. He goes and, of course, is imprisoned. It is a bad time to be in France. Lucie and Mr. Manette go France too. While there, they try to get Darnay out of prison. There is a trial, and they find out a paper that Mr. Manette wrote in prison many years ago has secured Darnay’s death by guillotine. The DeFarges are back and revolutionists. They have a lot to do with keeping Darnay in prison. (Mrs. DeFarge is a little obsessed)
Sydney Carton is in France too. His love for Lucie and his desire to be forgiven for all the trouble he has caused propels him to switch his identify with Darnay. He is executed in Darnays’ place.
Of course, I have over simplified this story. (You should have already read the book in school) So what’s the fuss?
This Lifeline production takes the heart of the story and treats it lovingly and with respect. Its simple story telling and terrific acting make this a great production. The direction by Elise Kauzlaric makes some beautiful images throughout this satisfying adaptation.
The casting is perfect. Not a weak link in the group. I especially loved John Henry Roberts as the mysterious “Resurrection Man”, Josh Pembroke as the introspective “Sydney Carton”, and the dashing Nicholas Bailey as “Charles Darnay”. I also enjoyed Maggie Scrantom as Lucie Manette and Carolyn Klein as “Madame DeFarge”.
The simple yet effective set (Joe Schermoy) and lighting designer (Elsa Hitner) bring this production to a new height. I especially thought the original music by Andrew Hansen was effective in helping establish the mood and tone.
From the opening moments to the closing heart wrenching moments, it is pure Dickens; but with a swiftness and light. This classic should not be missed, especially if you skipped reading the story in school or you vaguely know what happens in between those famous lines. Take a young adult with you and explain this is real story magic with no wands or dragons. Its magic is in the heart of the story of love and loyalty.
Highly Recommended by Lazlo Collins
Lifeline’s “A Tale of Two Cities” plays through 6 April 2014 at 6912 N Glenwood in Chicago’s Rogers Park.
For tickets go to wwwlifelinetheatre.com or call 773-761-4477
For more information on this and other shows please visit Theatre in Chicago. @ www.theatreinchicago.com