The Hartford Stage brings ‘Jane Eyre’ to life

“Jane Eyre” runs through March 14 at the Hartford Stage.

“Jane Eyre” runs through March 14 at the Hartford Stage.

Contributed photo /

Hartford Stage, Hartford: For readers with imagination, it’s not always easy to see a beloved novel made into a play. Too often the stage production doesn’t live up to what a reader has experienced. Readers fill in all the details as to how a character looks through their mind’s eye. Happily, the most ardent fans of Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” will not be disappointed in the current production of Elizabeth Williamson’s adaptation and direction of the play “Jane Eyre.”

For those who have not read “Jane Eyre,” this is the story of an orphaned girl who is terribly mistreated by her mean-spirited and greedy aunt. In spite of being sent away to a less than desirable school, Jane finds joy in life and the world. Through all the indignities that she experiences, she is always true to herself as a fine upstanding woman, who is not afraid to voice her opinions. She is certainly worthy of being considered a modern day feminist with her ideas of being independent, self sufficient and thinking for herself.

Visually, Helen Sadler is the epitome of the protagonist. From her Victorian dress to her tightly pulled back hair at the nape of her neck to her porcelain features, she is Jane Eyre. That Sadler also embodies the strong ideals and ideas of an independent and morally strong woman in her stance and voice completes the Eyre character.

As for Jane Eyre’s love interest, Mr. Rochester, portrayed by Chandler Williams, he was a far cry from the Mr. Rochester that I had initially known for years through my readings of the Brontë novel. However, Williams ever so naturally grew into that giant of a man whom I always knew as a strong, honest and devoted lover in my mind’s eye. Once, coming to terms with the vivaciousness and wild humor Williams displayed on stage, the additional tributes added to the charm of the character. Williams completed my character on stage and on and off the page.

Also delivering fine performances in this very talented cast are: Felicity Jones Latta, Meghan Pratt, Grayson DeJesus, Marie-France Arcilla, Steve Routman, and Megan Gwyn. All played multiple roles convincingly.

What is even more memorable than the outstanding characterizations of the two lead actors and supporting characters is that the adaptation of the novel and its direction is so thorough. It is amazing that Elizabeth Williamson manages to get the entire story told within two hours and 15 minutes. All the major scenes that one remembers from reading the book are vividly played out on the set designed so subtly by Nick Vaughan. Large sliding doors suggest a massive house which upon being opened allows the audience to peek into Jane Eyre’s world, where the Gothic and Victorian come together. Whether that opening reveals a translucent screen through which the audience watch silhouette scenes from Jane’s childhood or an orange and red glow from a fire within, the less is more concept works perfectly in the set design.

Ilona Somogyi’s costume designs reflect the Victorian era while Isabella Byrd’s lighting design and Matt Hubbs’ sound design accent the action. This production plays through March 14. Box office: 860-527-5151.

Joanne Greco Rochman is a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: