Theater review: “Jane Eyre: A Memory, a Fever, a Dream”

By Columbus Alive
From the May 23, 2013 edition

In her 1847 novel “Jane Eyre,” Charlotte Brontë addresses her “reader” directly time and again, telling us what to think or not to think, summoning our support, chastising us. So it makes eminent sense that in adapting the novel for Available Light Theatre, Daniel Elihu Kramer puts a handful of those readers directly on the stage to remember encountering the novel and to respond with its personal impact.

Acacia Duncan directs with a care that applies Mr. Rochester’s description of Jane as “at once so frail and so indomitable” to the tale itself. She is aided by a cast of four that brings both Brontë’s characters and the contemporary respondents to vivid life.

As Jane herself, Robyn Rae Stype embodies Rochester’s description with plainspoken ferocity and strength. Elena M. Perantoni flows seamlessly from the icy Mrs. Reed to the gentle, doomed little Helen Burns.

Michelle Gilfillan Schroeder brings all of her considerable skills to the stage as the older and wiser Narrator Jane, lending the inner voice and perspective that made Jane such an unconventional heroine. Then Schroeder surpasses herself in her brief but intense excursion into the mind of Bertha, the “madwoman in the attic.”

Jeff Horst, who possesses one of the supplest faces on any Central Ohio stage, switches between the Lowood orphanage tyrant Mr. Brocklehurst and the brooding Mr. Rochester in an eye’s twinkle.

In “The Common Reader,” Virginia Woolf wrote of “the genius, the vehemence, the indignation of Charlotte Brontë,” all of which Kramer and Available Light present intact.