“I’m afraid I shall make a poor figure in your journal tomorrow,” Regency bachelor Henry Tilden says to romance-thriller reader Catherine Morland in Lynn Marie Macy’s 2003 adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey, now revived at Park Avenue’s Theater Ten Ten. In Austen’s novel, Catherine’s journal remains mostly private, as the story is told in the third person. At Theater Ten Ten, however, Tilden has no such escape, because Catherine narrates her own romance, in the first person. He doesn’t know it, but she’s his author. This and other bold yet informed choices by Macy and Theater Ten Ten make Northanger Abbey: A Romantic Gothic Comedy a balanced marriage of integrity and innovation.
One such choice is Joseph
J. Egan’s set design. The wings and platforms of the stage look like giant
eighteenth-century books, emblazoned with the titles of those that the
imaginative and bored Catherine loves. The different locations of the play are
faux-woodcut illustrations on the pages of a giant open book with pages that
the actors turn to change the scene. “This landscape reminds me of the South of
France,” Catherine declares with great excitement on an outing with her
intended and his sister. Catherine knows
The acting of the principal roles combines Regency posturing
with the attitudes of modern teenagers. Catherine, played by Tatiana Gomberg, is restless and
cynical, entranced by
Finally, there’s the Gothic underside of this “Romantic Gothic Comedy”, as lightly sketched by Austen and magnified to great advantage by Macy, director David Scott, and the design team; namely, the exciting, nefarious world of Catherine and Regency England’s favorite novelist. Not Austen, but Ann Radcliffe. The people in Catherine’s world double as their melodramatic counterparts in Radcliffe’s bestseller The Mysteries of Udolpho. Catherine plays heroine Emily St. Aubert, an orphan of the Reign of Terror who faces off with the villainous Count Montoni for her late family’s property, her right to marry (and not marry) according to her choice, and her life. Macy’s insertion of a few key scenes into the script provides an exciting parallel plot and lets the Radcliffe novice in on Austen’s vengeful parody.
At the same time, Radcliffe didn’t write rubbish. A
The staging is mostly dynamic, and makes good use of the small stage, particularly in the ballroom dances choreographed by Judith Jarosz and Ricky D. Ravitts. In a few scenes, actors are frustratingly lined up in a horizontal row downstage. This causes them to have to peer awkwardly past each other and sometimes gives the impression of a school play. In the first-night performance, costume changes occasionally left a white underskirt showing through the back of a colored dress between the closing points, and McDonough’s blond wig was distractingly fake and revealed darker sideburns. In spite of these few glitches, the show is enchanting. Austen and Radcliffe fans and newcomers alike should find 1010’s Northanger Abbey a truly captivating place to visit.
Copyright 2006 RL Nesvet
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