Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

A Richly Imagined "Great Expectations" at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I've never been to Gads Hill Place, Higham, England, but I bet Molly Rhode and Lisa Schlenker have. Or at least they've seen illustrations of the upper-floor study there, in which Charles Dickens wrote many of his novels, including his final masterpiece, Great Expectations. For Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's staging of that story-which opened this weekend at the Broadway Theatre Center-director Rhode and set designer Schlenker start with Dickens's study onstage-or a pretty good approximation. There's his writing desk with the slanted top, and his bookcases, and a few chairs. It's only a suggestion-there's no effort to hide the lights and stage walls surrounding it-but it cannily reminds us that Great Expectations is the singular creation of a singular mind. Watching the play on opening night, I always felt like I was in the room where it happened.

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