nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
November 19, 2007
Innocent Diversions, the Jane Austen-style holiday fare from Theater Ten Ten, written, adapted, and directed by Lynn Marie Macy, is an absolute delight.
Jane Austen (played by Karen Eterovich) cordially invites us to join her family and guests for an evening of entertainment. The historical basis for this is that the real Austen family traditionally held gatherings in which they presented their plays and other writings, inviting participation from guests. This particular event is set in 1803, long before the publication of Austen's famous novels Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice, as a Christmas celebration at the home of the Bigg-Wither family.
The writing here displays a true appreciation and dedication to Austen's wit and social satire. Vignettes include "A letter from a lady in love to her confidante," "Verses to rhyme with 'rose'," and "A middle-aged flirt." The audience can look forward to smart lines such as: "In the event that you find yourself pleased by these diverting little tidbits, I implore you to recollect that I wrote it"; "We threatened to tear her new fan to pieces if she did not go along with our scheme"; "Though my charms are somewhat softened and impaired by the misfortunes I have endured, I was once beautiful"; "She has many charming qualities, but sobriety is not one of them"; "My novels will be my children. And I can ask no greater fulfillment in life than giving birth to them"; and a gem in the vignette "The History of England": "One of his mistresses is a lady named Jane Shaw. She has had a play written about her. But it is a tragedy and therefore not worth reading."
The talented cast is charming and chipper and well directed by Macy. Notably, there is the robust Chelsea Jo Pattison, as the child Fanny Austen, whose performance conveys a sense of fun and a high-spirited pluck. Kudos also to strong comic actress Talaura Harms as Madam Anne Lefroy. Luxurious period costumes are designed by Deborah Wright Houston, and there is a cozy, elegant set by David Fuller.
My attention wandered during the lengthier skits such as "The Visit" and "Jack and Alice." There is such a fine lightness about this event that the longer skits seem unnecessary.
Overall, this is an absolute charmer. It is in fact exactly what it sets out to be: an innocent diversion.