Theatre in the Round, one of the Twin Cities’ most consistently rewarding venues, continues its 58th season with a modestly successful production of Daphne du Maurier’s celebrated drawing room drama Rebecca.
The novel, published in 1938, made the British novelist a literary star, one of the most popular authors of that time. The next year she adapted it for the stage, and in 1940, the play enjoyed a London run of more than 350 performances. That same year, it went to Hollywood with Alfred Hitchcock for an Academy Award winning production that, despite the play’s spectacular triumph, tinkered with the ending to satisfy the industry’s moral code.
|rebecca, playing through november 8 at theatre in the round. for tickets ($20) and information, see theatreintheround.org.|
To her credit, Daphne du Maurier was quite surprised by Rebecca becoming such a smash hit. Frankly, it’s hard to blame her—at least on the basis of the play. The plot works, but it’s thin and fairly uneventful. What minimal movement that does take place comes late and culminates in a less-than-galvanizing climax.
We have Mrs. DeWinter (MaryLynn Menicke), a pretty, pleasant and endearingly naïve young woman who was somehow lucked out in Monte Carlo and was wedded to the profoundly wealthy Maxim DeWinter (John Adler). She is being initiated as the new lady of the house over which memories of the former (deceased) lady of the house hold undeniable sway. Mrs. DeWinter must contend with that fact and with sourpuss housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, who’s hellbent on making life miserable as possible for the newcomer. The conflict: Mr and Mrs. DeWinter want to live happily ever after, which Mrs. Danvers is determined will happen over Mrs. Danvers dead body. The fleshing out of this premise isn’t engrossing, but it does eventually engage. It won’t have your perched on the edge of your seat, but you won’t sit there rustling through the bill and looking at your watch, either. It is a serviceable night’s diversion with, in this production, a fine performance by Kristen C. Mathisen as that meddling old bat, Mrs. Danvers.
It will be much easier to make a go of the evening if you skip director David Coral’s self-congratulatory program notes, which promise a nail-biting, suspense-filled tour de force. It is well-paced, capably acted, and reasonably enjoyable. If you’ve got a Minnesota Vikings fanatic who takes over your place on Sunday afternoons, this makes for a good escape.