"Great Expectations" Grips Audience with Intimacy

3 min read

On a list of the more difficult classic novels to perform on stage, Charles Dickens’ 1861 masterpiece, Great Expectations must rank near the top. The book is long, devilishly complicated, and packed full of characters. A cast of fifteen would be daunted by the task of performing such a play- a cast of ten should be afraid.
Great Expectations was performed remarkably by a cast of six students last Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Austin Arts Center’s Garmany Gall, the show was a success. Hayden Mueller ’19 starred as Pip, the orphan whose lucky circumstances rescue him from his life of abject poverty and place him, quite suddenly, into the ranks of the London elite. Mueller’s performance was relaxed and well balanced. Each performance hinged, first and foremost, on the actor’s individual grasp of a basic English Accent. This was accomplished by all, at least enough so as not to distract from the play itself. Every actor, apart from Mueller, played multiple parts to cover the expansive cast of characters.
Audiences soon found themselves swept up in Pip’s story as it begins to heat up. Enter the gloomy Mrs.Havisham (Sarah Kristen Vasquez ’19), an embittered crone who wears a tattered wedding dress to spite her long departed lover and stay in the past. Vasquez does a beautiful job of emphasizing her character’s fragility and venomous attitude toward life and love. Diana Chandler plays her adopted daughter and personal heartbreaking weapon Estella with the impressive shrillness that is required of her for most of the play. Estella deliberately toys with Pips heart and insults him from childhood all the way into his teenage years. The two are destined to fall in love, of course, and Chandler’s performance softens with her characters heart.
Pip encounters other young gentlemen of wealth and status in his travels, such as the odious Bentley Drummle (Jack Lynch ’17) as well as the charismatic Herbert Pocket (Kailey Carpenter ’17) Lynch’s most impressive character is that of Pip’s brother-in-law Joe, whose storyline of an unspoken father and son relationship with Pip drifts toward the center of the action. His performance was simple, but it tugged at the heartstrings.
James Nash ’19 played the escaped convict Magwitch with strong theatricality and a high energy that made his one of the more impressive performances of the show.
As the performance of over two hours came to a close, it was clear that the seemingly impossible task of adapting such a novel into a play had been accomplished. Of the minor missteps and blurred plot points that are unavoidable in the translation process from book to stage, none of them are overly damaging, and none overshadow the high points of the actors’ well rehearsed performances.

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