Final Weekend to see “Anne of Green Gables”

Talented actors featured in WRP’s ‘Anne of Green Gables’

9/19/2019 – West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Molly Kessler (Anne), at left, and Tenley Stitzer (Diana) star in Western Reserve Playhouse’s “Anne of Green Gables.”
Photo: Chris Douglas

BATH — “Anne of Green Gables” has been a favorite of young girls since 1908, when Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote the novel of the adventures of Anne Shirley. Joseph Robinette adapted the novel to the stage.Now, Western Reserve Playhouse (WRP) is staging the show through Sept. 28. On opening night Sept. 13, the show attracted almost a capacity audience.

The story concerns siblings Marilla Cuthbert (Harriet DeVeto) and Matthew Cuthbert (Stephen Morse), who made plans to adopt a boy who could help them with their farm. What they got was orphan Anne Shirley (Molly Kessler) and a world of adventures with their new daughter.

The play is episodic — the program lists 23 scenes. But overall, the story deals with Anne’s adapting to her new parents and their adapting to her. A second story arc concerns Anne’s success in school. Anne is competitive with Gilbert Blythe (James Patrick). By the end of the play, they embrace (remember it’s 1908) and we have the promise they might live happily ever after.

In one humorous scene, Anne invites her classmate Diana Barry (Tenley Stitzer) to tea. But Anne accidently serves her friend several glasses of homemade wine and gets her very drunk.

The play is gentle and kind. Problems are solved quickly, although not always quietly.

The script has 21 actors playing about 30 characters. With that many characters, the story is sure to be long. On opening night, the performance ran 2-1/2 hours, with one intermission.

Director Brianna Joi could have shortened the production by helping the cast pick up their cues faster and by making the scene changes move faster. Each of the 23 scenes requires a set change, and those set changes move too slowly. By having a technical crew, Joi could have cut some of the running time.

Kessler makes Anne a delight. She could be heard from the back row (where I sat for the first act).

As always, DeVeto contributed her experience and skills to the production. She seems to pull the younger cast members along — they should learn from working with this talented performer.

Patrick has developed a good deal as a performer since his first production, “Lost in Yonkers,” at WRP.

Stitzer, in her first role at WRP, created a memorable character. She plays comedy well and we should look forward to seeing her in other productions.

Some of the performers did not speak to the whole audience. They need to know the audience absorbs much of the sound. WRP is a small theater and any of us could speak loudly enough to be heard back at the concession stand.

For tickets, call 330-620-7314 or visit westernreserveplayhouse.org.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor emeritus of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the Cleveland Critics Circle.

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