Little Women

The following article by Peggy Saunders appeared in the Saugus Advertiser on Thursday 6 April 2000:

“Little Women” as presented by the Theatre Company of Saugus allows its audience a voyeur’s view of family life in the 19th century. This is the classic story by Louisa May Alcott (adapted by Roger Wheeler) about four sisters coming of age during the Civil War. It unfolds on Christmas Day 1863 in the picturesque sitting room of the March home in Concord, Mass. It is here we first meet the four March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.

Jo, played by Caryn Picarillo, captures perfectly the very outspoken young girl who so wishes to shed the restrictions placed upon women of that era. Picarillo slips easily into the role of Jo as she prances like a colt across the stage as the take-charge sister. Totally outspoken in manner and speech, her performance enhances the roles of the other three sisters.

Meg, the oldest of the March sisters, is capably played by Kristin Marchetti; she is soft-spoken and lady-like and a perfect foil to Jo’s brashness and boldness. The two younger sisters, Beth, played by Ruth Leroe and Amy, played by Tiffany White, interact nicely within the family setting. Leroe effectively portrays Beth, as the bashful sister who gathers strength via her love of music. White, as Amy, livens up the role as the baby of the family with tears and feet stamping to show displeasure when she’s thwarted from joining the older girls on outings.

Seth Holbrook, in the role of Laurie Laurence, the grandson of the wealthy next-door neighbor, is outstanding as a young man who has been orphaned by his parents’ death and is living in a big, rambling home inhabited by a houseful of servants and presided over by his kind but stern grandfather, played as a proper gentleman by Alan Barbacoff. Laurie sees the March sisters through the window and longs to join in the fun, asking them to think of him as a surrogate brother. Putting the young, handsome Laurie into the mix provides the action.

Marmee, the girl’s mother, is left alone to care for her daughters while her husband is off serving as a Union chaplain for troops fighting in the war. Played like a true mother by Jean Amorosi, Marmee shows tenderness and strength when her daughters complain of living in reduced circumstances after the loss of the family’s wealth.

Joan Curran, as Aunt March, adds both a comic relief and an insight into the philosophy of the day that young women with no means should make a real effort into marrying men of means. Michael Ward plays the shy tutor perfectly, by balancing gentlemanly politeness with the determination to win his Meg’s heart, even with Aunt March’s disapproval.
Though we don’t see Professor Bhaer until the end, we get to know this academic via his correspondence with Jo. Felix Treitler portrays the professor impeccably, right down to the German accent.

This is an ambitious production for a small theatre company, and director Larry Segel has had a monumental task of making it all work, and work it does–from the casting right down to the smallest prop.

Adding to the difficulties of pulling off this production is the fact that it’s a period drama, and from the opening scene you can see the careful attention that has been paid both to the set and the costuming. Credit for this goes to the production staff, the director and the producer, Fran Baron, and her associate, Martha Lecaroz.

At the onset of the play, the details are apparent. There are no stockings hung by the fireplace and no festive decorations decking the table or mantelpiece as evidence that the March family has known better times. The sitting room, with his homespun details– dolls on the couch, a sewing basket on the floor and a grandfather clock–set the familial scene.

The dress of the 19th century has been authentically crafted. The long dresses topped off with pinafores, the bonnets, the capes and the gloves all add to the authenticity of the production. The attention to detail is carried over into the menswear as well. The shape and length of the jackets and the shirts with the jabots adorning the front are cleverly used to take the audience back in time to another era.

Much credit for the costuming goes to Doris Moriana, and to Joan Curran and Jean Amorosi, both of whom are doing double duty in the production. Even the hairstyles are true to the 19th century.

This production is a great opportunity to see a beloved classic come to life and promises an enchanting evening of entertainment for the entire family. Sponsored by the Saugus Federal Credit Union, “Little Women” [played] at St. John’s Church (corner of Central and Prospect streets in Saugus) on April 7, 8, 9, 14, & 15, 2000…