Tuesday, November 23, 2021

'Great Expectations' takes to the stage in San Jose


Miss Havisham (Li-Leng Au, left) tells Estella (Jennifer Le Blanc) and Pip (Keith Pinto) how her
heart was broken. Dave Lepori photo

Charles Dicken’s 19th century English novel “Great Expectations” has been adapted for the stage by Neil Bartlett.

San Jose Stage Company is presenting this adaptation with six actors. Only one of them, Keith Pinto as the hero, Pip, plays just one character. The rest do double and triple duty playing a mix of characters.

The plot follows Pip from childhood to young adulthood.

As a boy, the orphaned Pip was taken in by his shrewish older sister, Mrs. Joe (Li-Leng Au), and her kindly husband, Joe (Norman Gee), a blacksmith.

He unexpectedly is summoned to the home of Miss Havisham (Au), who commands him to play with her haughty adopted daughter, Estella (Jennifer Le Blanc).

Aside from Pip, Miss Havisham is the most interesting character. Jilted on her wedding day many years ago, she still wears her tattered wedding gown and retains her moldering wedding cake.

She has trained Estella to break men’s hearts, just as her own was broken. Nevertheless, Pip grows to love Estella.

Several years later, he’s told that he has an anonymous benefactor who will pay for him to go to London to get educated and become a gentleman. That’s when his great expectations arise and are dashed.

Besides Pinto, Gee, Au and Le Blanc, the versatile cast features Julian Lopez-Morillas and Nick Rodrigues. Directed by Kenneth Kelleher, all of them fully inhabit their roles, even when the plot becomes convoluted.

Pinto is especially impressive, remaining onstage throughout the show and reflecting Pip’s transformation from boy to man with both vocal inflection and body language.

The simple, almost barebones set and Jean Cardinale’s costumes facilitate the frequent scene changes and the actors’ changing roles. The sound by Steve Schoenbeck helps to create settings and mood.

Running about two hours with one intermission, “Great Expectations” will continue through Dec. 12 at The Stage, 490 S. First St., San Jose.

For information, tickets and COVID protocols, call (408) 283-7142  or visit www.thestage.org.