Classic Theatre of Maryland’s production of Jane Eyre is a faithful, moving adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel. Co-adapted by CTM actress Laura Rocklyn and Artistic Director Sally Boyett, and directed by Donald Hicken, it perfectly captures the novel’s gothic atmosphere and romantic entanglements.
Laura Rocklyn brings a fierce strength to Jane. She vocally protests her mistreatment, whether at her guardian for unfairly punishing her or at Rochester (Michael P. Sullivan) for suggesting she stay on as his mistress, even after the truth comes out. Even while silent, she shows great emotion; her disappointment and sadness are clear when Rochester discusses a potential suitor. By the play’s end, though, she is playful and loving, gently teasing.
Michael P. Sullivan gives a hidden vulnerability to Rochester. Initially gruff and cynical, he opens up to Jane, revealing parts of his past. He can be controlling, demanding an injured Mason (Jack Venton) not to speak to Jane while he fetches medical help. And he evades and misleads over his biggest secret until it comes out.
Nancy Krebs plays Jane’s guardian Mrs. Reed with firmness, scolding Jane for standing up for herself. As Rochester’s housekeeper Alice Fairfax, she is kind and talkative to Jane, giving information that proves useful. As Jane’s estranged aunt, she is harsh and brutally honest, revealing a secret that might have helped Jane.
Kat Maybury gives a strangeness to the maid Grace Poole, giving cryptic answers to Jane’s questions and accusations. John Pruessner plays Mr. Brocklehurst, in charge of the school Jane is sent to, with cruel authority, commanding the other students to beware of Jane and exclude her from their activities because of her fierceness. As Reverend Wood, he is befuddled and shocked at the revelations opened during the wedding.
Allison Meyer gives a kindness to Helen, Jane’s only school friend. Breathing poorly, she asks Jane to sit in bed with her, while accepting her fate and reciting the “Orphan’s Prayer.” As Adele, Rochester’s young ward, she has a childlike energy. Sitting on the floor, she plays with dolls and giggles in delight at getting a fancy new dress. She speaks a mixture of French and English.
Jacey Schult plays Bertha with manic delight. She crawls along the stage, laughing and growling. Seeing Rochester, she violently rushes toward him, having to be restrained. As Diana, St. John’s (Jake Daley) sister, she is all compassion, stopping her brother’s interrogation of Jane.
Mackenzie Koehne gives an entitled air to Lizzy Reed, Jane’s cousin. She gangs up on Jane with her siblings, treating her as an inferior. As St. John’s other sister Mary, she is kind, befriending Jane and spending time with her. Jake Daley plays John Reed, Jane’s cousin, as a spoiled brat, striking her with her book he claims she has no right to. As St. John, he is initially kind yet reserved, asking questions while offering protection. Later, he passionately encourages Jane to join him as a missionary in India, seeing her as a great helpmate.
Jack Venton plays Mason with great strength. Injured and under strict orders not to speak, he remains silent even while nursing his shoulder. Later, at a crucial time, he reveals a great secret, even against Rochester’s protests. Dexter Hamlett plays Sam the driver and Dr. Carter with great attention, both giving useful information.
Costume Designer Sally Boyett and Wig Designer Tommy Malek recreate the period with the women wearing long dresses, caps, and bonnets, and the men in vests, jackets, top hats, and boots. Jane wears a long black dress, sometimes with an apron, briefly changing into a white one. Adele wears a light green patterned dress, briefly changing into a blue one with ruffles. Bertha wears a tattered, white dress and has wildly unruly hair.
Lighting Designer Juan Juarez reflects the dark mood with lightning flashes behind the backdrop of long windows. At other times, the backdrop light changes to purple, and red for Jane’s punishment in the “Red Room.” A spotlight shines on Jane during some dramatic moments. Sound Designer Folger Ridout adds to the atmosphere by throwing out mad laughter and voices speaking.
Voice and Dialect Coach Nancy Krebs ensures the actors have distinctive, authentic-sounding accents while remaining understandable to the audience. Movement Director Sally Boyett creates several dramatic and spooky movements for some of the actors. Donald Hicken does a wonderful job as director. The actors navigate the stage and each other perfectly and capture every emotional moment. Both fans of the novel and those unfamiliar with it will enjoy this adaptation. It is an appropriate production for the month of Valentine’s Day.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 15 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.