Living Up to Expectations: Great Expectations Is Highly Recommended
Even though its themes about love, friendship and ambition are enduring and enchanting, Great Expectations is not the most common staged production. Perhaps it is because even if the themes are straight-shooting, the scenes are dynamic and complicated—Gothic graveyards, rambling mansions and gardens, busy London street scenes and even a row boat chase scene that would make Jason Bourne envious.
But Oregon Shakespeare Festival has solved that problem by maintaining the most minimal staging (occasionally, a kitchen table is set centerstage, and used almost interchangeably between a blacksmith’s home in the countryside and a table at Pip’s London flat). Certainly this sparse staging draws in the audience own imagination to fill in the blank spots—and also, more importantly, creates an unencumbered view of what really matters in Great Expectations—the themes of broken love, unmitigated friendship and the healing power of kindness.
Great Expectations is an enduring story, about an orphaned young man, Pip, whose kindness turns even the most blackened heart into kindness and generosity, but who is also his own worst enemy as he wants for better than his station in life.
The OSF production is excellent. Attending with an eight-year old, the quick-paced held (mostly) her rapt attention for three hours, and well-placed comic flourishes cut through Charles Dickson’s otherwise glum and tough-hewn story.