White Rhino Report: A Gothic Victorian Tale With Many Plot Twists

Publication date: 
December 15, 2016
Al Chase

The A.R.T. is finishing up the calendar year of 2016 with a flourish with the intriguing and dark drama "Fingersmith" by Alexa Junge. Based on a novel by Sarah Waters, this play is a gothic Victorian tale of forbidden love, betrayal and redemption. There are many tortuous plot twists along the way, so I will be offering scant comments about the plot to ensure that no surprises are spoiled.

Sue Trinder, a.k.a. Fingersmith (Tracee Chimo) is a trained and gifted pickpocket, raised by the Fagin-like Mrs. Sucksby (Kristine Nielsen). Together with Richard "Gentleman" Rivers (Josiah Bania) they hatch a plot to rob Maud Lily (Christina Bennett Lind) of her inheritance. To say that complications ensue would be to drastically understate the case. The action features hangings, murders, kidnappings, forced incarcerations in a lunatic asylum, and many other shady dealings. In a world dominated by men, Sue, Maud, and Mrs. Sucksby emerge as powerful women, giving this Victorian tale a strong feminist undercurrent.

Themes of class and gender divides are explored in creative ways, as is the role of sexuality in a repressed era. The playwright uses gravity as a uniting motif throughout the play. The telling of this complex and intriguing story is enhanced by a superb cast and brilliant team of creatives. Christopher Acebo's set is a marvel - with rotating turntable that allows for rapid movement from library to a rowboat to a carriage ride through the countryside. The multiple levels and staircases allow for movement of the actors throughout the performance space. Costume Design by Deborah Dryden paints a vivid picture of class differences. Lighting by Jen Schriever sets just the right moods as actions shift among times and places. Composition and Sound Design by Andre Pluess sounds just the right eerie notes. Projections by Shawn Sagady bring us to the gallows.

Director Bill Rauch brings this production from his home at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. continuing a collaboration with A.R.T. that began with "All The Way." He has assembled a stellar cast, and he leads them with a steady hand. Standing out are the aforementioned Kristine Nielsen as Mrs. Sucksby, Tracee Chimo as Sue, Christina Bennett Lind as Maud, and Josiah Bania as Richard. Other standouts include Luke Marinkovich as John Vroom, Patrick Kerr as Huss, Jo Mei in multiple roles, Kate Levy in multiple roles, Kingsley Leggs as Dr. Christie et al., Lauren Modica as Cook and Nurse, Zachary Infante as Charles, T. Ryder Smith as Christopher Lily, Maud's eccentric uncle, Lenne Klingaman as Marianne. Morgan Jamie Benard and Giana Ribeiro alternate in the roles of Young Sue and Young Maud.
If you go, which you should plan to do, you will be challenged to keep up with the rapidly developing and lurching plot, but it is well worth the effort. The play will run through January 8th, 2017.  Get your ticket's quickly. Last night's performance was completely sold out. Don't be left hanging!

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