The Mill on the Floss | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Mill on the Floss


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THE MILL ON THE FLOSS, Vitalist Theatre, at the Blue Rider Theatre. It's an exciting match, Elizabeth Carlin Metz's kinetic staging and Helen Edmundson's vibrant 1994 adaptation of George Eliot's potent 1860 novel. Darin Wilson's supple score and Dawn Arnold's expressionistic choreography add even more urgency. Much more persuasive than Impulse Theatre's half-baked local premiere, Vitalist's version is enlivened by dead-on, impassioned performances, so clear in their depths and shallows you sense the consummate theatricality of Edmundson's award-winning dramatization.

In Eliot's relentless plot, brother and sister Tom and Maggie Tulliver are hardened or elevated by life's trials--petty relatives, a father's illness, family debt, forbidden love, and the spiteful gossip of a small town. In the play Maggie's evolution from wild child to independence seeker to martyr of self-renunciation is cogently conveyed by Georgina Stoyles, Kelly Lynn Hogan, and Jamie Virostko, three Maggies who explore the character's complexity with awesome range and energy. As Phillip, the soul mate Maggie loves too lightly, John Norris makes unrequited love seem a force of nature. Nathan Vogt as Maggie's illicit lover offers an ardor to test her hunger for integrity, and Martin Aistrope and Lori Myers paint Dickens-sharp portraits of the addled parents.

Reveling in a bounty that recalls Nicholas Nickleby, nine actors play 20 roles here, perfectly pitching their accents, attitudes, and attack. The one flaw is the omission of the villagers' final chorus of condemnation, a reminder that this tragedy is irredeemably social.

--Lawrence Bommer

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