Based on the 1916 novel of the first female Pulitzer Prize winner, Edith Wharton, Summer brings us to the remote village of North Dormer in the US. Charity Royall is an orphan, taken in and looked after by her guardian Lawyer Royall. Now, eighteen years later Charity longs to leave the village and explore the world. When the exciting New York architect Lucius Harney enters her life and it will never be the same again.

This stage version was written by Julia Stubbs Hughes and directed by Timothy Stubbs Hughes of 20 South Street, and marks the 150th anniversary of Wharton’s birth.

The play is a classic tragedy, the heroine flawed by her roots: She was born on the mountain where people don’t live like proper Christians, but heathen. Her guardian, played by Francis Adams, has tried to raise her well, but still she has a wild and adventurous streak. Joanne Gale portrays spunky Charity with fervour, she is quick witted and at times a little brusk as teenagers can be. There’s a lovely chemistry between her and Jeffrey Mundell who plays Lucius, the blossoming relationship is played out subtly.

The events that follow, follow a little too quickly. A scene transition can be just one line before moving onto the next event, making it hard to get into the flow of the story. The mix of naturalistic script and the set accommodating the horse-shoe formation of the audience was tricky.

Keeping English accents despite the US setting was at least consistent and didn’t bother me, the acting was convincing enough to let us imagine the scenery in the near empty blackbox, but the filmic quality of the script makes a key moment where Charity notices a doctor too staged: She has to simultaneously describe what she sees and convey her thoughts to the audience. Also the sudden incorporated silent movement moments were unclear to me: Are they real, is this happening in someone’s imagination.

What was clear is the central issue of the story: Charity’s sense of adventure is being blamed on her roots, on the mountain people, but is it really? Has she not just got the right to want to explore the world beyond the village. What options does she have in life? The consequences of the relationship are so different for Lucius than for her as a woman.

The play did feel like a summary of key moments of the original book, which meant that despite its 1 hour and 50 min length, it still felt rushed. It does create intrigue enough, however, to make you want to pick up the book when you should see it next.

Reviews by Clarissa Widya

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The Blurb

Charity is eighteen-years-old and a child of the Mountain: wild and free. She yearns to escape from the boredom of her existence in the village of North Dormer.

Into her life comes Lucius, a New Yorker, with his knowledge and experience of the world. Her guardian and father-figure, Lawyer Royall, fears he could be the destruction of this engaging young woman.

Summer tells the story of a woman's awakening, caught between the desires of two men who want her for themselves.

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