Inspired by and Adapted from Edith Wharton’s THE HOUSE OF MIRTH
Conceived, Adapted and Directed by RACHEL DICKSTEIN
Ohio Theater, 66 Wooster St., NYC
January 8 – February 5, 2005
Adapted with and Dramaturged by EMILY MORSE
Choreographed by RACHEL DICKSTEIN with the ensemble
Original Music and Sound KATIE DOWN
Set Design SUSAN ZEEMAN ROGERS
Costume Design ILONA SOMOGYI
Lighting Design TYLER MICOLEAU
Production Stage Manager MISHA SIEGEL-RIVERS
Press Representative KAREN GRECO ENTERTAINMENT
Margot Ebling – Young Lily, Charwoman, Gerty, Nettie
LeeAnne Hutchison – Bertha Dorset, Carry Fisher, Opera Singer
Paula McGonagle – Lily Bart
Grant Neale – Simon Rosedale, Percy Gryce, George Dorset
Christopher Oden – Gus, Gossip Columnist, Bertha’s Lover, Chemist
Andy Paris – Lawrence Selden
Jill A. Samuels – Judy Trenor, Mrs. Peniston, Mrs. Hatch
On this one hundred year anniversary of Edith Wharton’s novel, The House of Mirth, Ripe Time has turned its particularly tuned eye toward recreating a classic tale for a modern audience. Here, inspiration has generated a multi-disciplined endeavor called INNOCENTS.
Though technically a play, INNOCENTS is best described as a performance piece that, while deeply immersed in the dramatic aspects of theatrical stagecraft, conveys the weight of vital plot points through the language of movement usually associated with dance. Not surprising, as Ripe Time’s mission statement includes, "Our company is devoted to the creation of and experimentation with performance that bridges the gap between dance and theatre." Luckily, they know what they are doing, and the visuals are viable replacements for dialogue.
The story of INNOCENTS centers around an aging beauty named Lily. Set amidst the New York society of a century ago, Lily finds herself a poor woman mingling with the upper classes. She has gotten into debt and accepted money from a married man, whilst refusing offers of marriage from men of means. Measure by measure, Lily finds herself short on prospects and scorned by the very society she so wanted acceptance from. Her transformation of mind and status, and her burgeoning self-realization make this tale one for any age.
INNOCENTS features a fine ensemble cast, and on the whole, production design that serves the piece well. The direction is fluid, if generally slow-paced. The set is mainly a series of gates that both contain the players, and serve as props. They loom large, and alternately insulate the insiders and isolate the unwanted. The costume design is equally interesting. The women are almost always dressed in virginal white, right down to their corsets. Regardless of marital status or social standing, they are outfitted the same, sexual and subdued simultaneously. When color is added, red and black, it is for heightened dramatic effect and plot advancement. The lighting is moody and even eerie. The music completes the picture. The only notable problems are that at times the female characters are difficult to distinguish, and the final moments of the production did not have quite the dramatic punch I anticipated.
Overall, I think audiences will appreciate the emotional nuances inherent in a production like Ripe Time’s INNOCENTS. Visually engaging, and experimental without being isolating, this adaptation is what it aims to be, as well as what it claims to be.
- Kessa De Santis -