Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Millbrook: "Anne of Green Gables"

Anne of Green Gables, a play based on Lucy Maud Montgomery's beloved 1908 novel about an orphaned girl whose intelligence, independence, and imagination help transform a small rural portion of Canada's Prince Edward Island, has finished its run by the Millbrook Community Players.

John Chain directed seventeen actors through the play's numerous scenes over two acts that recount Anne Shirley's [Lily Hillman] arrival at the farmstead of middle-aged brother and sister Mathew (sic) [Michael Snead] and Marilla [Sarah Missildine] who were expecting to adopt a boy from a Nova Scotia orphanage to help them on their farm. Through a mix-up, the orphanage sent a girl, and they reluctantly agree to let Anne stay on a trial basis that somehow lasts for years.

There is an instant kinship between Anne and Mathew, as he responds to her spunkiness and allows himself to indulge her whims, whereas Marilla's insistence on a kind of Puritan upbringing is tested at all turns by Anne's unpredictable personality and behavior.

These relationships develop over time, and Marilla gradually softens her stance; and along with an instant friendship between Anne and schoolmate Diana [Amber Gay], these are some of the strongest scenes in the Millbrook production.

A litany of familiar character types is present as well, among them a gossiping neighbor Rachel [Emily Burdick] whose constant refrain, "If you want my opinion, which I'm sure you don't", prefaces most of her appearances and garners expected laughs; a stern school teacher Mr. Phillips [Greg Fanning] is contrasted with a compassionate teacher Miss Stacy [Jennifer Gay] who mentors Anne to excel at her studies and win a place for further education; and a local school boy Gilbert [Micah Holley] who is both a scholarly rival and a reluctant romantic interest for Anne.

Ms. Hillman and Ms. Amber Gay give credibility to the bond between young girls; Mr. Holley's adolescent teasing of Anne for her red hair and freckles mostly disguises the respect he has for her that comes out only towards the end of the play; Ms. Jennifer Gay's portrayal of the encouragement for Anne's development is sincere; Ms. Missildine's gradual adapting to Anne's challenges and her acceptance and love of the young girl in her charge are subtle and truthful; and the comfort between Ms. Hillman and Mr. Snead is evidenced from the start of their relationship and is the most convincing in this show.

Though the play runs long due to constant blackouts between every scene, and due to a steady but slow pace, Anne of Green Gables remains a heart-warming story that tells of the better nature of humankind from which we can all take example.