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Emma 

A group of friends acts out the tale of literature's favorite matchmaker

Wednesday, Dec 1 2004
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In the days before sitting around watching MTV and getting high, a group of young friends pass an afternoon in an attic, acting out the tale of English literature's favorite forgivably flawed matchmaker, Emma Woodhouse. Michael Fry's metatheatrical adaptation of the Jane Austen novel is as lively as its source, and as cleverly calibrated. But don't be intimidated by that flowchart in the program; it's just there to help make sense of the play's 20 characters, evenly divvied up among five hardworking actors. What's impressive about this production isn't the precision of its gear work; it's how agreeably the ensemble expresses Fry's comparison between the delights of matchmaking and those of playmaking. The cast members enjoy themselves and one another, and their game takes on, in the best possible way, what someone calls "an air of foppery and nonsense." It's an actors' show, and director Jeffrey Bihr, who's put in plenty of stage time himself over the years, seems like an actors' director. In the title role, Lauren Grace is vital and sympathetic, an easy contender for the pantheon of memorable Emmas (Silverstone, Paltrow). The others deserve compliments, too: Never does it seem that anyone should be playing someone else's role. They all spend most of the show onstage, and therefore aren't immune to momentary energy lulls. But the intimacy of the Aurora seals off most drafts of audience distraction; here Emma and friends have the perfect space in which to get their loves untangled.

About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

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SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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