Review: ‘Little Women’ at Aldersgate Church Community Theater

Aldersgate Church Community Theater brings the timeless tale of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy to life in the classic Louisa May Alcott tale Little Women, adapted by Roger Wheeler. Director Ashley Amidon and her talented cast deliver an evening full of laughter and tears.

The Sisters square off. From left to right: Jo (Heather Norcross), Meg (Emily Golden), Amy (Sophia Manicone). Photo courtesy of Aldersgate Church Community Theatre.
The Sisters square off. From left to right: Jo (Heather Norcross), Meg (Emily Golden), and Amy (Sophia Manicone). Photo courtesy of Aldersgate Church Community Theater.

The show centers around the bonds of affection between the March sisters and Emily Golden, Heather Norcross, Casey Kniseley, and Sophia Manicone do not disappoint. Emily Golden turns in a mature and passionate performance as Meg, the eldest sister. In particular, her scenes with Aunt March (Mary Ayala-Bush) and John Brook (Travis J. Downing) electrify. As the youngest sister, the pouting and artistic Amy, young Sophia Manicone turns in a polished and promising performance, delivering her lines with great clarity and humor. One of the most touching scenes of the night is the Act 3 farewell of Jo and Beth, deftly played with heart and depth by Heather Norcross and Casey Kniseley. As Jo, Heather Norcross is intense and passionate, living life with reckless abandon, particular in the truncated second act.

Mary Ayala-Bush is a standout in her single scene as the interfering, officious Aunt March. Elizabeth Repogle is warm and matronly as the kindly Marmee. As Laurie, John Trope was most engaging in his bantering scenes with Jo. Travis J. Downing and Brendan Quinn turn in strong performances in their brief appearances as Mr. Lawrence and John Brook.

The Friends : Laurie Lawrence (John Trope), Jo March (Heather Norcross). Photo courtesy of Aldersgate Church Community Theatre.
Laurie Lawrence (John Trope) and Jo March (Heather Norcross). Photo courtesy of Aldersgate Church Community Theater.

Becky Patton’s set design, amply enhanced by Alex Mees’ props, is suitably evocative of Civil War era Massachusetts. Mary Ayala-Bush’s costumes are lovely and evoke the sense of a genteel family fallen on harder times. Jeffrey Auerbach’s lighting design is well-thought out and nicely complements the action on stage.

The original play by Roger Wheeler is three acts and an epilogue, which Director Ashley Amidon shortened to three acts. Unfortunately the cut, which culminates at the end of a heart-wrenching scene, mars the legacy of hope and endurance that is so central to Louisa May Alcott’s enduring classic and completely changes the focus of Jo’s story. Instead of leaving the theatre feeling uplifted, the ending left me feeling slightly depressed and impaired an otherwise lovely evening at the theatre.

Despite the shortened adaptation, Director Ashley Amidon and her talented cast of Little Women gamely offer an evening of love, laughter, and enduring affection in a story that never grows old.

Running Time: Approximately Two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

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Little Women plays through October 17, 2015 at Aldersgate Church Community Theater –  1301 Collingwood Road, in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.

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