One of only a few local theaters specializing in literary adaptations, Lifeline is used to condensing dense plots into stage-friendly narratives. For his adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s classic revenge tale, Lifeline ensemble member Christopher M. Walsh wisely intercuts the title character’s past with scenes from his present-day mission of vengeance. The first act is occasionally bogged down with exposition, but by gradually revealing the transformation of naive sailor Edmond Dantès into the cunning Count of Monte Cristo, Walsh builds the suspense leading into the action-packed second act.
Paul S. Holmquist’s sharp production rarely lags, with a cast that understands the story’s stakes and tackles them with confidence. The rousing music by Christopher Kriz helps create an almost operatic sense of grandeur, while Joe Schermoly’s simple but elegant set design and Aly Renee Amidei’s lavish costumes bring the early-1800s setting to life. In the title role, Chris Hainsworth gives an intense performance that seamlessly transitions between Edmond’s defeated fragility and the Count’s cold determination. Jenifer Tyler brings a genuine sense of loss and regret as Edmond’s ex-fiancée, Mercedes, longing for the man she once loved but unable to accept what he’s become. After murdering the men who wrongly imprisoned him, Edmond loses the thing he’s been fighting for all along.