The Shining Gem of Emma

Review of Emma at Book-It Repertory Theatre by Delaney M.

I saw the play Emma, which is running at Book-It Repertory Theatre until November 22nd 2009. The novel Emma was written by Jane Austen and Book-It’s version is directed by Marcus Goodwin and adapted by Rachel Atkins. Emma is played by Sylvie Davidson, Mr. Knightley is played by Dylan Chalfy, Harriet Smith is played by Ashley Marshall, and Mrs. Weston is played by Casi Nicole Wilkerson.

Sylvie Davidson as Emma Woodhouse. Photo by Adam Smith.

Emma is a classic Jane Austen novel that showcases the lives of early 19th century British gentry. Emma tells the story of a young girl, Emma Woodhouse, who is growing and developing in a small rural community in England. Emma struggles with vanity and her stubborn ideals of how she and people around her should live their lives. Along the course of Emma’s self discovery she runs into many little snags where her meddling in the affairs of others and outspokenness lead her into offending her friends and family.

The Center House Theatre, where Emma is playing, is small and cozy, with only a few rows of seating and the actors roaming up and down the stairs next to your seat, the audience is drawn into the play, and the setting becomes a reality. The set remained the same throughout the entire play, a painted ballroom floor and blue walls, but as the scenes changed small props, such as a picnic blanket, a candelabra, and chairs, were brought in to help show the small changes in setting. Deane Middleton's costumes stayed very true to the time period and managed to effortlessly combine simplicity of style with beautiful colors and fits of the clothing.

All of the actors did a very good job; however, three actors truly took their characters to heart and not only read the lines, but lived them. Dylan Chalfy who plays Mr. Knightley did an extraordinary job, he looks exactly like what I would have imagined and his mannerisms and emotions seemed to flow straight into what his character was like in Jane Austen’s novel. Brian Thompson, or Mr. Woodhouse as he is known in the play, manages to perfectly portray all of Mr. Woodhouse’s bumbling eccentricities without seeming over the top or overly comical. The shining gem of Emma though was Sylvie Davidson, who played Emma. Sylvie was only off of stage for a grand total of probably 2 minutes, and every moment that she was on stage she commanded the audience’s attention with her vivacity and perfect mimicry of Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse. All in all the cast is very cohesive and I can quite honestly say that every actor in Emma is highly skilled, and delightful to watch.

I would highly recommend Emma to everyone, including Jane Austen fanatics, who will pleased by how alike the novel and the play are. While Emma is definitely an all ages show, in order to fully understand the play and draw as much as possible from the experience I would recommend that it is best for ages 14 and up.

- Delaney M.
October 23, 2009

Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through November 22nd
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