Monte Cristo, written by Jared Reinmuth, with direction by Cailin Heffernan, brings an interesting and lively interpretation to this infamous tale. As a whole, the members of New Light Theater Project are a spirited bunch and it is apparent that they have a strong passion for performing and engaging the theater community.
Leading the cast as Monte Cristo is Tom Frank whose dominant presence brings the novel to life on stage. Alana Barrett-Adkins, who plays Mercedes, embodies the elegance and sophistication of Monte Cristo’s one time fiancée. At first glance, her regal manners take prominence, but eventually give way to deeper examination of her inner self.
A good-sized cast of almost 15 occupies the stage, even when not directly involved in a scene. Credit is due for the actors being as still as statues, but is at times a lot to follow and a tad distracting. While lively, a number of scenes could have used a bit more cohesion and polish, in terms of line delivery and overall presentation.
A fun twist is the score by Henry Aronson, which provides an upbeat sound with hints of guitar and catchy melodies. The cast gets into a celebratory mood and joins together in dance to lighten up the heavier content. These entertaining breaks are necessary for a production over two hours in length.
Costume designer Cheryl McCarron takes inspiration from a modern bridal party, with gowns and suits for both sexes matching in design and color. In this case, the dreaded “bridesmaid dress” works and keeps things consistent among the substantial cast. The scenic designer, Sarah Lambert, stays true to the isolated jail cell environment, with minimal props, stylized sets, and the haunting words, “My God, Let Me Keep My Memory,” written in white chalk with a tally count of days overhead as way to further hit home the struggle of losing one’s mind.
Fans of this epic tale will enjoy New Light’s adaptation of Monte Cristo, and this organization is very much worth checking out for their innovation and willingness to take risks and play outside the box.
Monte Cristo (through February 13, 2016)
New Light Theater Project
Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 630-632-1459 or visit http://montecristo.brownpapertickets.com/
Running time: two hours and 35 minutes including one intermission