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Louisa May Alcott in Little Women

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When Chicagoans Beth Lynch and Scott Lynch-Giddings cast Louisa May Alcott as a character in her own novel, they found an intriguing solution to a sticky problem: the sweetness and untrammeled celebration of family ties in Little Women, the coming-of-age story of a tomboy and her sisters during the Civil War, might be a little wearing on a cynical modern audience. The enthusiastic students in this Wisdom Bridge/Roosevelt University production freshen the sentimentality and enliven the famous vignettes of homemade plays and sisterly pranks, but it's Alcott's interwoven narrative that shows how radical these independent girls were for their time. Alcott, daughter of an abolitonist, combined uncompromising principles with playful good spirits, much like the heroine of Little Women, Jo March. She wrote thrillers and political narratives with equal skill and devoted herself to community service, volunteering as a nurse during the Civil War and using her fame as a writer to campaign for women's suffrage. Her history grounds this adaptation without taking away from its wholehearted embrace of charity and love. Told almost completely in Alcott's words, this play is faithful to her novel as well as to her life, adding a sense of historical discovery to the pleasure of revisiting a classic. Harold Washington Library Center, auditorium, 400 S. State, 341-2550. Through December 10: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 PM; Sundays, 3 PM. $16-$29.

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