By Riley Dauber
The Garfield Center for the Arts, located on High Street in downtown Chestertown, is celebrating the holiday season with a stage production of Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women. The play opened on Friday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m., coinciding with the weekend’s Dickens Festival events.
Directed by Washington College alum Hester Sachse ‘20, the play follows the March family the mother, who everyone affectionately calls “Marmee,” and her four daughters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Mr. March is a doctor in the Civil War, leaving the sisters to try and support the family in any way they can.
While Alcott’s novel has been adapted multiple times over, this stage adaptation was written by Kate Hamill in 2016 with the hopes of creating a “fresh take on a well-loved classic,” according to the show’s playbill.
“Everyone knows at least a little something about the March sisters. But how their story still rings true, and how the challenges they faced and things they learn can be lessons for a modern era, is something that Hamill has navigated quite delicately and with precision in her playwriting,” executive director Steven Arnold wrote in the show’s playbill.
The play is still set in the nineteenth century, but the scenes between the sisters are relatable for modern audience members.
Eldest sister Meg, played by Maryanne Shoge, wishes to marry and support her own family, but she struggles with her newfound responsibilities. The story’s heroine Jo, played by Macy Elayna Morris, wishes to write and financially support herself and her family with her published work. Many of the conversations between her and the next-door neighbor Laurie,
played by Sam Holdgreve, still ring true for many women who feel like they do not have a place in the world.
The youngest March sisters, Beth and Amy, also receive some attention in this stage adaptation. The former, played by KT Pagano, is the shyest of the four and prefers playing her piano.
Amy, played by Izzie Squire Southworth, may come off as a spoiled brat when she is younger, but she grows into a young woman and learns how the world works as the play progresses. According to a New York Times review of Hamill’s script, “Hamill…has done the dramatically sensible thing and placed Jo at the center…the silly, malaprop-prone Amy blossoms fully into her horridness, becoming an excellent foil for Jo.”
The rest of the cast is rounded out with Minnie Maloney playing Marmee and Aunt March, Allison Jones playing John Brooks and Parrot, Rebekkah Napier playing Mr. Laurence, Mr. March, and Doctor, and Cassi Pinder playing Hannah, Mrs. Mingott, Messenger, and Mr. Dashwood.
According to the playbill’s director’s note, Sachse first read Alcott’s novel in middle school. When she read Hamill’s play, she enjoyed the “new and fresh version” with themes that are still applicable to modern day audiences, despite the play’s 1860s setting.
“This is a play for everyone, but in particular, it is a play for, by, and about women. The incredible women on stage are here to tell a story about what it’s like to try to live their best lives through all the challenges and foibles we all face and hold,” Sachse wrote in her director’s note.
Little Women is currently showing at the Garfield Center for the Arts on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. until closing on Sunday, Dec. 17. Tickets can currently be purchased on the Garfield’s website or at the door; general admission is $20, and student tickets are $10.
While the play is the last of the Garfield’s 2023 season, productions will return in the new year with a performance of the musical Lucky Stiff, which will open Feb. 2.
Photo Caption: The Garfield Center for the Arts plans to run the adapted play for three consecutive weekends.
Photo by Riley Dauber