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CurtainUp Feature: Second Thoughts-- #1:
Some Facts About Dickens' Novel Hard Times,
Stephen Jeffrey's Play Adaptation and
a Novel "Biography" of the Play's Current Host

by Elyse Sommer 
Les Gutman's Review of Hard Times
How Hard Times Fits into Dickens' Oeuvre
How Jeffreys' Hard Times Fits In With the Pearl Theatre Company's Mission
A Novel "Biography" of The Pearl's Own Hard Times 
Book Browsers' Links:
Hard Times: Hard Times Mass Market Paperback
David Hapgood's "biography" of the Pearl: Year of the Pearl On Line (hard cover only) 
How Hard Times Fits into Dickens' Oeuvre

Does Jeffreys' Hard Times Fits In With the Pearl Theatre Company's Mission?
 Here's what artistic director Shepard Sobel tells subscribers to look for in a Pearl production:
. . .a single, expressive, perfectly executed visual element that suggests a world without reconstructing each of its walls. Look for clean lines and simple statements in the costumes that offer the actors a definitive flair, but do not overwhelm the audience with extravagance.
The spareness of the Jeffrey adaptation seems written to fit Sobel's vision. It retains much of the narrative but puts them into the mouths of the actors who will dramatize it; it suggests the furnishings without detailing them. It's a very dynamic concept that seems best suited to a small venue like the St. Marks which allows the actors to move into the orchestra to give a clearer sense of the many parts they play. And it does work well and makes for one of the company's more compelling productions, in spite of its flaws which lie largely in the casting of actors who don't always inhabit their multiple roles without a great stretch of the audience members' imaginations.
 A Novel "Biography" of The Pearl's Own Hard Times 
What distinguishes the Pearl from other small, independent theater organizations?

It shares all those companies' constant battle of the budget--especially so when the mission is to do classical plays within a repertory setup. Theater goers and journalists seem fascinated by these huffing and puffing little engines fueled by the dedication from a small band of artists and supporters. The older Jean Cocteau Repertory (also in the East Village neighborhood as the Pearl, the hip young companies like the New Group and the Drama Dept. all provide fodder for the theater journalists' quills.

 Only the Pearl, however, has its own authorized biography in the form of a journal published by Knopf in 1991 and entitled Year Of the Pearl. The biographer, David Hapgood, whose love of the theater dates back to when he was a young child and his mother was Stanislavski's translator. His year of hanging around the Pearl in its old Chelsea location and interviewing everyone associated with the company, turned out to be a defining season. Many of the people mentioned are no longer with the company in its larger space on St. Marks Place.

The Hapgood book is a bit too much through a fan's lens and somewhat dated in terms of its location and operational principles. While it ends before the Pearl's move and general evolution--including a very attractive Web site (see link below), Year of the Pearl is nevertheless an interesting and well-observed account of the passions and problems that go into the building of an against-all-odds sort of theatrical enterprise.

Recap of Links Mentioned  Here:
Les Gutman's Review of Hard Times
CurtainUp Review of Quills
Pearl Theatre web site
Hard Times Hard Times On Line Mass Market Paper Back Edition
Year of the Pearl On Line (hard cover only)  

© September 1997, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
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