For more than 30 seasons, Lifeline Theatre has created its niche as a company that launches original adaptations of literary classics. Continuing this tradition is its world premiere production of A Tale of Two Cities.
Unlike most of Charles Dickens’s novels which are set in Victorian England, A Tale of Two Cities takes place in London and Paris during the Reign of Terror. It’s a story that deals with dualities as stated in the opening line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Juxtaposed behavior unfolds as persecuted French peasants turn into brutal oppressors and a British barrister who spends his life as a drunken cynic greets death in such a magnanimous way, he becomes one of literature’s most revered (and law-breaking) heroes.
All this (and more) is conveyed in Christopher M. Walsh’s tight adaptation. Despite a deliberate start, the play picks up speed and suspense with a climactic close prior to intermission. The second half successfully delivers plot pay-offs via character coincidences that tie together in one big Dickensian bow, ending with the work’s prophetic and poetic line, “'It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
More than 150 years have passed since A Tale of Two Cities first appeared in 31 monthly installments yet its political observations, dramatic action, comical comments, and romantic sacrifices remain fresh thanks to the collective performances by Josh Hambrock as Sydney Carton and ensemble members Katie McLean Hainsworth and Chris Hainsworth.
Maggie Scrantom adds depth to Lucie Manette, John Henry Roberts shows versatility as the Resurrection Man, and Carolyn Klein makes a convincing Madame Defarge. Rounding out the solid cast are Sean Sinitski as Doctor Manette, Nicholas Bailey as Charles Darnay, Melissa Engle as the Seamstress, and Dan Granata as Monsieur Defarge.
Under the skillful direction of Elise Kauzlaric and technical direction of Scenic Designer Joe Schermoly, A Tale of Two Cities makes good on Lifeline’s mission to stage sprawling stories in an intimate space.
The production runs through April 6 on 6912 N. Glenwood Avenue. Free parking and shuttle service is offered. Group rates are also available. For more information and tickets ($20-$40), visit www.lifelinetheatre.com.