Blue Room stages hilarious production of Macy’s Austen adaptation
As has been noted by others, Jane Austen possessed a rare quality that Shakespeare also had—she presented her characters without an expectation as to how her readers should weigh them. Which is quite the opposite of Ann Radcliffe’s intentions for her characters in The Mysteries of Udolpho, written nearly 100 years earlier than Austen’s Northanger Abbey. That modern playwright Lynn Marie Macy has managed a seamless juxtaposition of the two books that is both fluid and hilarious is a marvelous feat.
The Blue Room’s current production of Macy’s play effortlessly captures that fluidity and also reaps a lot of out-loud laughs.
The tale follows Catherine Morland (Alice Wiley Pickett), an intelligent young woman perhaps too obsessed with Radcliffe’s wildly illogical romance. Catherine is sent to spend time in Bath with childless, wealthy couple the Allens (Dave Lindstrom and Lea McCreary). As she meets a variety of types in the Allens’ particular social whirl, Catherine uses Udolpho as a kind of template for determining who’s who, leaping from her early 19th-century English setting to the fantasy of Radcliffe’s Continental-draped dream world. Of course, in the latter space, Catherine becomes Radcliffe’s overwhelmed-but-ne’er-defeated heroine Emily, and it is many of these crossover scenes in the play that provide the most laughs.
Director Amber Miller has assembled a solid cast, many of whom portray several characters depending upon which world we happen to be navigating at any given instance. Particular nods go to Wiley Pickett, who captures that sense of adolescent naïveté and energy perfectly. She is absolutely hilarious. Also quite good were Erik Pedersen as Catherine’s love interests in both worlds (Henry Tilney and Chevalier Valencourt), Elizabeth Kollings as Isabella Thorpe/Signora Livona, Dave Lindstrom as Catherine’s father/Mr. Allen, and Callen Reece as John Thorpe/Count Morano.