Friday, January 15, 2016

Review of Promethean Theatre Ensemble's Brontë

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Brontë. It was written by Polly Teale and directed by Jaclynn Jutting. It was about the three Brontë sisters who became writers (Anne [Janeane Bowlware], Charlotte [Eleanor Katz], and Emily [Anne Korajczyk]) and about how their writing changed their lives. The had very hard lives because their mother and two of their sisters had died so they basically had to take care of themselves. A lot of people didn't think women should be writers but thought they should just be wives and mothers and housekeepers. But of course the Brontë sisters didn't believe that, so they rebelled by showing that women can write and can make amazing stories and poems. They were not the only women writers but they were really good at portraying the real lives of women and how it is not as easy as people think it is. They don't make women objects; they make them subjects and you get to learn a lot about their feelings. This play tells their story with a lot of flashbacks so that you can see what their life before was like and they do talk to the audience, but not in character. This play teaches you a lot about the Brontë sisters and about their home life as well as their work. I thought this was a bittersweet and interesting show. It made me think a lot about the Brontë sisters and what it must have been like to live in the Victorian era.

I thought that the relationship between Charlotte and her brother Branwell (Ken Miller) was very touching. When they were kids it seemed like they had a lot of the same dreams. You got to see what they were like as kids and how they spent time together pretending to be captains looking for a new land. It ends up that he is not as great an adult as he was a kid because he isn't very kind and he doesn't have any ambitions anymore. So he has an affair with his employer's wife and he feels happy when he is around her, but then the husband catches him and he has to go home to his sisters because he is unemployed. And then he starts to drink. The sisters still love him, but he is doing terrible things to himself and he won't listen to them. Because you love him so much at first because he is so ambitious and the little boy version of him is kind of adorable, it makes it even sadder to see him get so messed up. It makes Charlotte sad, but she acts more angry because she feels he should have done something more.

You don't only see the sisters as themselves, you also see them turning into the characters that they wrote. The sisters play the characters in their own books that speak to them the most. Emily plays Nelly but sometimes speaks along with Cathy (Ashley Fox) from Wuthering Heights. It shows you that she kind of connects with two different characters. Nelly is very protective and tries to help people at every turn. But Cathy is more disturbed. And Emily feels disturbed sometimes and feels hurt and betrayed, like Cathy. But to the outside world she is more like Nelly. Anne turns into Helen from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. (I have never read that book, but my mom is a Brontë enthusiast, so she told me about it.) I think she really sees things from Helen's view because her brother is always drunk just like Helen's husband. Charlotte has two characters that you see her become, Jane Eyre and Bertha (Fox). Bertha is not a main character, but you can see Charlotte put a lot of thought into her because you see that she has all these mental connections with the character like how she says some of the same things Bertha says in Jane Eyre when she is trying to write to her teacher Heger (John Arthur Lewis). Also the actor who plays Rochester (Jared Dennis) also plays the person who will become Charlotte's husband, Bell Nicholls. I thought that was very cool that you saw the seeds of her real life in her story.

The sisters do love each other very much, but the play is very realistic as to how siblings are. Siblings are not always super friendly to each other, like Charlotte lashes out at her sisters when she is disappointed about not getting published. But then they are still ready to comfort her after she storms out and comes back. The sister have different ideas about want they want their lives to be like. Charlotte wants fame for herself and her books. She wants to be a part of the community of famous writers. Emily wants everyone to just leave her alone and let her deal with herself. She writes to keep herself from hurting herself and she doesn't want anyone to talk to her about it. Anne wants people to read her work but she doesn't want everyone to recognize her on the street. But they all have one thing in common: they all want to write.

People who would like this show are people who like Victorian novels, stories about talented women, and discovering new lands. I think that people should go see this show. It was fun and it really teaches you a lot about the Brontë sisters and the era they lived in. I enjoyed it.

Photos: Tom McGrath

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