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Ingenious Adaptation of ‘Wuthering Heights’ Glows With Ardour and Humor at Berkeley Rep

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British theater director Emma Rice, whose work has delighted Bay Space audiences for over a decade, has introduced her newest work to Berkeley Repertory Theater, and its as visually gorgeous, emotionally wealthy, and intricately staged as the whole lot Rice has performed beforehand.

First working below the auspices of the theater firm Kneehigh Theatre and now below her personal firm, Clever Kids, Emma Rice has staged a number of acclaimed theater items within the Bay Space — primarily at Berkeley Rep — since 2010’s Temporary Encounter, which ran at A.C.T. earlier than shifting to Broadway. These have included diversifications of the medieval romance Tristan and Isolde, in addition to the bluegrass-y Brothers Grimm adaptation The Wild Bride, that got here again for a second run by in style demand.

Along with romantic tales, signatures of Rice’s work embody the usage of stay music, dance, kinetic motion, clowning, and puppetry within the service of those tales, and her newest adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Gothic novel Wuthering Heights is not any exception.

However the right way to inform a narrative so famend for its darkish spookiness and plot involving treachery, abuse, and neglect, within the type of a musical, on a stay stage? It is a problem that Rice clearly dove into headfirst, eradicating the framing narrator Nelly Dean and including in her place a Greek refrain who characterize the Yorkshire Moors — the panorama of forest and rugged, wind-whipped hills that function the backdrop to Bronte’s story.

Taking part in the lead Moor, Jordan Laviniere serves because the story’s major narrator, in addition to counsel to a number of characters within the type of Greek tragedy. As Rice describes it, in her reframing, she casts Heathcliff (Liam Tamne) because the God of Revenge, Catherine (Leah Brotherhead) because the God of Chaos, and their nephew Hareton (Tama Phethean) because the God of Hope.

Every will get their second to dominate the narrative, starting with Catherine, however that is, by means of and thru, a decent ensemble piece wherein nearly all of the dozen gamers are sometimes on stage directly — shifting in choreographed chaos and style, shifting round set items product of reclaimed doorways, home windows, and wood chairs, and offering backup sound results and puppeteering.

Taking part in the roles of the neighbor Lockwood and his predecessor at Thrushcross Grange, Edgar Linton, actor Sam Archer shines as some of the proficient bodily comedians, opening the story with a sequence of pratfalls and an animated battle with a blustering storm exterior.

And taking part in each Isabella Linton (till her premature loss of life) and Little Linton, Georgia Bruce additionally proves her comedic and dramatic chops.

The leads, Heathcliff and Catherine, are each performed by immensely proficient actors in Tamne and Brotherhead, each of whom achieve conveying the thrill of their shared, half-feral childhoods within the Moors, in addition to the dangerously intense, grownup ardour for one another that grew out of that.

There’s a variety of cousins marrying cousins in Wuthering Heights, to not point out adoptive siblings Heathcliff and Catherine — hey, individuals did not get out a lot! However at base, Rice suggests, this can be a story about how love can destroy, however at its purest, when the adverse forces of human existence are stripped away, there’s all the time hope in love.

Leah Brotherhead as Catherine surrounded by The Moors within the West Coast premiere of Clever Kids’s Wuthering Heights at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Picture: Kevin Berne

In service of the story are a dozen authentic songs by Ian Ross — together with the Alanis Morisette-esque, very rock-and-roll “Catherine’s Curse” that comes close to the tip of Act 1, wherein somebody tosses Brotherhead a microphone and he or she rocks out downstage. These embody some fairly tunes, like Act 1’s “Bluebell,” however principally there’s a theme of minor-key ennui to the rating, which is suitable sufficient.

Essentially the most outstanding achievement of this Wuthering Heights could also be its lightness and humor. It is a testomony to Rice’s skills as an adapter and director that whereas the seriousness of Bronte’s themes just isn’t ignored, and whereas the characters exhibit some actual ache and anguish all through, this is not a tragic or desultory story in any respect. It is a play that strikes, with barely a second’s relaxation, from begin to end. And we’re given loads of joys, between the thrills of the actors’ collective dance from scene to scene, making and remaking the form of the stage, and the precise laughs that we’re allowed to have on the characters’ — and Bronte’s — expense. When Catherine utters her melodramatic line “There is no such thing as a happiness!”, at the very least one member of the orchestra eventually night time’s efficiency laughed out loud, and why not?

‘Wuthering Heights’ performs at Berkeley Rep by means of January 1. Discover tickets right here.

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