Pointless Theatre has produced a stage adaptation of Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece, City Lights, called Visions of Love. Using the original score, adapted and composed by Chaplin himself, and incorporating puppets to represent certain characters, the story follows the Tramp as he falls in love with a beautiful, blind woman, befriends an eccentric millionaire, attempts to earn money as a prizefighter, and is chased by the police.
Director Matt Reckeweg has done a brilliant job capturing the feel and flow of Chaplin’s style. With the help of Sound Designer Michael Winch, the show moves as one continuous dance with various interludes, marking significant moments in the story.
The show is true to the silent film style, with no dialogue and using actors holding up title cards to represent the intertitles that appeared in the movie.
Alex Vernon’s puppet designs are gorgeous works that add another layer of artistry and accentuate the dance-like movement of the actors, who must manipulate the puppets in sync with each other and the music.
Every aspect of the show seems touched by expertise. Frank Labovitz designed the costumes, beautifully styled for the 1930s, when the original film is set. From the plaid pants of the messenger boy, to the Blind Woman’s shawl, each costume piece is fitting–including an impressive lady justice “statue” that is revealed (with the Tramp asleep at her feet) at the top of the show.
Kerry McGee plays the Tramp, and her mastery of his facial expressions and mannerisms is astounding. McGee walks with that famous Chaplin gait effortlessly and emulates the endearing charm and innocence the Tramp was so loved for.
Sharalys Silva is the Blind Woman. She sells flowers in the city and her pure loveliness captivates the Tramp, whom she has mistaken for a very wealthy customer. Silva has an expression that radiates appreciation and humility, and she has genuine chemistry with McGee. Their scenes together are romantic and full of hope.
The Tramp then encounters a drunk millionaire (portrayed as a puppet) and stops him from committing suicide. As thanks, the millionaire invites him to his mansion, where the two continue to drink and end up going out on the town.
The next morning, after the Tramp and the millionaire have been out all night, the Tramp sees the Blind Woman and, using money that the millionaire has given him, buys all her flowers and gives her a ride home in the millionaire’s car.
But the now sober millionaire has no memory of the previous night’s adventures and, upon the Tramp’s return, throws him out on his ear.
The story follows the original plot almost entirely. The Tramp discovers that the Blind Woman and her Grandmother (also a puppet) are in danger of being evicted and attempts to earn money to give them. He also reads about a doctor who has a cure for blindness and, while he is concerned about what the Blind Woman would think of him if she could actually see him, he wants to do everything he can to help her.
The Tramp once again encounters the millionaire, who is drunk again and welcomes him back to his mansion. Hearing the story of the Blind Woman, the millionaire gives the Tramp enough money for their rent and the doctor, but the evening is interrupted by a thief attempting to rob the mansion. The millionaire is knocked out and the Tramp fends off the thief but, upon waking up, the millionaire has once again forgotten the Tramp and the money he has given him and thusly accuses the Tramp of being the criminal.
Vanessa Chapoy, Lee Gerstenhaber, Jon Reynolds, Eirin Stevenson, and Scott Whalen make up the small ensemble, who work the puppets and play the rest of the characters in the show. The cast is constantly hustling in the choreographed, controlled chaos of many scenes, which involve interweaving traffic, using small cars that the actors wheel around, and the mayhem of the police pursuit of the Tramp.
Pointless Theatre’s production of Visions of Love is a beautiful homage to the beloved Charlie Chaplin. The performances from the actors are jaw-dropping and their ability to convey the depths of emotion and intricate details of the story, using only physicality and facial expressions, is utterly exquisite.
Visions of Love is appropriate for all ages (I took my ten-year-old with me and it was such a joy to watch him experience the style) and is absolutely a must-see. In addition to the heart-warming content of Chaplin’s story, the creative team and cast have created their own masterpiece that should not be missed.
Running Time: 60 minutes, with no intermission.
Patti Kalil and Frank Labovitz, Co-Scenic Designers; Brittany Shemuga, Lighting Designer; Amy Kellet, Props Designer.