`Great Expectations' Is Fine Example of Story Theater

By Kowarsky, Gerry | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 27, 1995 | Go to article overview

`Great Expectations' Is Fine Example of Story Theater


Kowarsky, Gerry, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The current production of "Great Expectations" at St. Louis University uses an adaptation by Barbara Field. This is the second opportunity this season for an audience in St. Louis to see a literary adaptation by Field.

Earlier this year, the Repertory Theater of St. Louis presented Field's new play, "Off the Ice," in which characters from "Little Women" and "Uncle Tom's Cabin" continue their stories in a literary world of Field's devising.

Field's "Great Expectations" is a straight adaptation of Dickens' original by using the technique of story theater. Instead of relying entirely on dialogue, story theater presents a story as a mixture of dialogue and narration. The actors do not merely address one another in character. They also advance the action by speaking directly to the audience.

The technique works well for Dickens in general and for "Great Expectations" in particular. Narration is just as important as dialogue in Dickens' sprawling novels. A dramatic adaptation without narration would have to add an enormous amount of dialogue to convey the same information in a comfortable amount of time on stage.

"Great Expectation" is particularly suitable for dramatic presentation because its theme and action are tightly focused. The future of a young orphan named Pip is irrevocably changed in his youth by an act of kindness he performs and an act of unkindness that is done to him. …

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