The Pearl Theater Company
"Hard Times" A novel by Charles Dickens' about the industrialization and factory workers in a fictional Victorian city called Coketown which exposes the economic and social hardships of factory workers and other inhabitants of that city.
In a wonderful,clear and fluid adaptation by Stephen Jrffreys and a minimalist approach in staging by J.R. Sullivan the play which is three hours and fifteen minutes long moves along smoothly and powerfully keeping all of us awake and concentrated. I say this because in today's theater expectations this play is a long one and people are getting used to mere ninety minute
long plays. Its a great achievement on the part of Pearl's creative team to not only do the classics but to do them well.
The central character in Hard Times is Thomas Gradgrind (T.J.Edwards) headmaster of Coketown school.
He is determined to live by facts and teach his students nothing except facts. To create, to imagine, to dream. to have a fantasy is not part of the lessons delivered by Gradgrind.
This kind of dry and sterile training at a young age leaves his students to lead unhappy lives.
That Includes his own children Louisa (Rachel Botchan) and Tom (Sean McNall)
The other main character in the play is Josiah Bounderby (Bradford Cover) factory owner and
a banker of ferocious power and greed very much resembling the present time bankers with the whim of demolition of the human spirit.
The headmaster, Gradgrind's children end up having wasted lives. Louisa, the daughter ends up marrying the much older banker Bounderby and Tom, the son who works for Bounderby in his bank ends up being into heavy debts which the sister often take care of and into drinking.
There are other subplots such as factory workers and a circus in town which provides most of the humor in the play. Stephen Blackpool (T.J.Edwards) a weaver in the factory owned by Bounderby, an honest man with a pure heart ends up in a heartbreaking tragedy.
Six actors in this Superb production play more than twenty characters and the director keeps the pacing fast and sharp.
My favorite actors (though all actors did a great job as an ensemble) were Bradford Cover as
Bounderby, Harthouse and a stern law clerk and T.J.Edwards as Gradgrind and Blackpool.
Bradford Cover got every tick, every gesture, every move of the character right and he had the toughness and the elegance of a Baron whom one wants to hate but is also mesmerized by.
T.J. Edwards was clear, coherent, a strict father determined to follow his beliefs as a good father and a good teacher no matter how harmful those good actions of his turned out to be.
Both these actors gave elegant performances.
The Lighting design by Stephen Petrilli created the perfect mood for the play.
This is by far the best adaptation and the best direction I have seen in a long time of a classic novel for the modern stage.