Oh, Pip. That poor orphaned protagonist from Charles Dickens’ classic 1861 novel Great Expectations. The one who moves from youthful innocence to morally questionable social climber to sobered adult while meeting a host of colorful characters along the way, including an aged jilted bride with a sadistic streak and her stunning but stone-hearted ward, a brutish convict, and a mysterious benefactor who offers Pip a second chance at life.
Strawdog’s streamlined production, smartly adapted by Gale Childs Daly, places the storytelling front-and-center, with a fearlessly adept ensemble of six morphing into the characters who inhabit Pip’s world.
As Pip, Mike Tepeli convincingly navigates the massive emotional arc required of this role. Much like the haunted Ebeneezer, Pip emerges from his brutal reality shaking an invigorated man with renewed perspective. Tepeli never loses the center of Pip’s good soul.
The supporting cast (comprising Amanda Drinkall, John Ferrick, Kyle A. Gibson, Megan Kohl and John Taflan — all stars in their own right) seamlessly shift personas with the flip of a dress or the donning of a hat. Subtle changes are all that are needed thanks to each actor’s commitment to creating well-defined characters. Director Jason W. Gerace keeps the action focused and fluid, using simple props in novel ways while leaning on John Kelly’s evocative lighting design to delineate tone and time.
If you’re looking for a chance to rediscover a beloved classic while revisiting some of Dickens’ simple but potent (and quite relevant) life lessons, check out Strawdog’s production.
“Great Expectations” plays through December 14 at Strawdog Theatre. More info here >