One of the great treats in theater is to see a world premiere of a play. It is even better when it is written by local actors and playwrights. It is the best when it is also well done. That is the experience I had watching Tiny Dynamite’s new play The Complete Works of Jane Austen Abridged written by Jessica Bedford, Kathryn MacMillan, Charlotte Northeast, and Meghan Winch.
This is truly a labor of love. In the spirit of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged, 39 Steps, and other frenetic treatments of writers and works, the audience does not have to had read everything to appreciate this play. Tiny Dynamite sets out an engaging presentation of the works from Ms. Austen’s canon. The three actors do a phenomenal job maintaining clarity despite a very entertaining pace.
Director/Co-playwright Kathryn MacMillan makes great use of the unique and historical space. It is staged in the parlor of the historical Hill-Physick House (321 S. 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA), often identified as the best representation of Federal Era architecture. The space provides a wonderful home for the production that also features Tiny Dynamite’s signature Pie and a Pint with the price of a ticket.
The actors are incredible in their commitment to the script. That may be in part because Jessica Bedford and Charlotte Northeast were co playwrights of this work. The fourth member of the writing team is Artistic Associate Meghan Winch who is a well-known Philadelphia actress and dramaturg.
The premise is that they are explaining the works of Austen to a new replacement actor who shows up to play the male parts. He is played with great charm and enthusiasm by Trevor Fayle. It is through his eyes that we learn to appreciate the playwright’s insight into the people and situations of times.
The play tells the audience just enough information about Austen to avoid information overload. Their choices are clever and representative of author’s work. The audience gets caught up in the actors’ enthusiasm and sincerity. Macmillan is assisted here by Sara Outing (Set and Prop design); Janus Stefanowicz (Costume Designer); Michael Lambui (Lighting Designer); and Daniel Ison (Sound Design). Their work captures the flavor of the production as well as the intricacies of this small and unfamiliar space.
As of opening night, all eighteen performances have few tickets available. Tiny Dynamite does suggest you check their website (tinydynamite.org) for single tickets and cancellations. Tiny Dynamite is a gem in the pantheon of small Philadelphia theater programs. They deserve your support.