LIfeline delivers a thrilling adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved YA fantasy.
Actress Jamie Cahill burns with the fury of an exploding star in James Sie’s newly revised 1989 adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic novel, A Wrinkle in Time. She plays Meg Murry, a young girl with a stubbornness matched only by her temper, who gets tasked by a group of interdimensional beings with rescuing her scientist father (Michael McKeough, worth saving) from a distant planet, Camazotz, that’s under the sway of a great and pervasive evil. Meg is stubborn and quick-tempered to a fault—so much so that these “faults” of hers end up becoming her greatest strength. With Cahill’s performance, you intuitively understand that, more often than not, this is what a hero looks like—angry, rebellious and always ready to fight.
Meg is roped into the mission by her genius (and possibly psychic) younger brother, Charles Wallace (Trent Davis, who alternates the role with Davu Smith), after he befriends the eccentric Mrs. Whatsit (Madeline Pell, great), her quote-spouting friend, Mrs. Who (Javier Ferreira, also great) and the somewhat invisible Mrs. Which (Carmen Molina, completing the trifecta of greatness). Along with Calvin O’Keefe (Glenn Obrero), a popular boy from her school, Meg and Charles Wallace end up as warriors in a great cosmic battle against “The Darkness”—a battle that Mrs. Whatsit, Who and Which—the aforementioned interdimensional beings—have been fighting for many millennia. The cast is unfussily and wonderfully diverse, a welcome sight for a story that screams “universality.”
For the most part, Director Elise Kauzlaric wrangles the story’s fast-moving plot into place and brings its many alien locales to life. An ensemble of black-clad Noh-style performers provide many real-life special effects, which blend well with the visual touches of lighting designer Kevin D. Gawley, costume designer Izumi Inaba, and sound and music designer Eric Backus. The backdrop of the set is a curving plane that instantly captures A Wrinkle in Time’s exhilarating mix of science, religion and fantasy—even if some of the staging that occurs behind it gets lost. The show gets off to a rough start, though, as the actors blow through the play’s early scenes. It’s as though the production is trying to get to all the cool, sci-fi fantasy stuff as quickly as possible. Yet the true pleasures in L’Engle’s story lie in the tight bonds between her characters; the fantasy stuff is nice, but it’s not what has kept generations of kids coming back.
Lifeline Theatre. By Madeleine L’Engle. Adapted by James Sie. Directed by Elise Kauzlaric. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs; one intermission.