Lifeline Theatre. By Charles Dickens. Adapted by Christopher M. Walsh. Directed by Elise Kauzlaric. With ensemble cast. 2hrs; one intermission.
Theater review by Suzanne Scanlon
"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 was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…" So begins the Resurrection Man (John Henry Roberts) as our eloquent narrator for Lifeline Theatre’s production of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. Adapted for the stage by Lifeline’s Christopher M. Walsh, and directed by Elise Kauzlaric, the production foregrounds not just Dickens's belletristic prose, but a sentence-level parallelism reflecting the doubling of protagonists: the depressed Englishman, Carton (Josh Hambrock), and the elegant, gentle Frenchman Darnay (Nicholas Bailey).
Their relationship does much to drive the plot, leading us to the moments that feel most alive. Kauzlaric’s staging of the end of Act I has the fuming patriots ready to storm the Bastille; with less of Hugo’s notorious miserables, these revolutionaries are rabid, menacing. The second act ends with even more electricity, as our hero faces the guillotine, and, he trusts, the mercy of his Christian god.
Some of the Dickensian plot convolutions, together with multiple underdeveloped characters, feel less worthwhile on stage than they might on the page. Still, the actors are uniformly strong: Darnay and Carton (whose rousing, elegiac final speech sends goosebumps) play their doubles with alacrity, and others (including Maggie Scrantom as Lucie Manette and Sean Sinitski as Doctor Manette) bring even the less detailed characters to resonant life. Though inconsistently rendered, in the moments where the power of Dickens’s text meets the power of theatrical craft, this Tale is something to behold.