I’m not as intimately familiar with Jane Austen as I maybe should be so I took a friend with me to see EMMA who could help me out. Both of us enjoyed the show but found some of the casting quite curious. More on that later.
This is, of course, the story of Emma (Courtney Lucien), a young woman who fancies herself a romantic matchmaker. She sets about trying to connect young love birds but is hilariously unsuccessful. Through the course of the play we meet various characters including Emma’s father (a hilarious Jim Hopkins), a young vicar (Brent Vimtrup), and Emma’s young friend (a convincing Caitlyn McWethy) that she is desperate to help find a man.
If you remember the movie “Clueless,” then you know the story and characters.
The plot unfolds at a breakneck pace and I admire the way Kelly Mengelkoch kept the action moving. This is her directorial debut and its a good one. There were some lines and moments that confused me because of the speed with which the actors pushed through the scenes but overall I appreciated the shorter (for this company at least) run time.
Lucien is just delightful as Emma. She captures the spirit of the character, especially in her direct addresses to the audience. Other standouts include Tess Talbot as a reserved “Jane” and Corinne Mohlenhoff as “Mrs. Weston.” For me, the highlight was the appearance of Miranda McGee the snooty “Mrs. Elton.” She owns the stage during from the time her character appears. I really enjoy her work.
My friend, who is not a theatre afficianodo, was puzzled by the casting choices of Maggie Lou Rader as “Mrs. Bates” and Jeremy Dubin as “Mr. Knightley.” I agreed; neither seems age appropriate for the roles they play. Dubin is charming and proficient in his portrayal and I always like his work but something didn’t quite jive in the chemistry between him and Lucien. Rader seems far too young to play Bates, at least without a wig and some makeup. It certainly took my friend out of the moment more than once.
Overall, EMMA is a well done production with great costumes by Stormie Mac, a gorgeous set by Brian C. Mehring, and smart direction from Mengelkoch. It will surely sell out so get your tickets now.
EMMA plays through March 26th at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in downtown Cincinnati. Get your tickets and more information here.