by Margery Sharp
When the Shelburne Players chose to present Lucy Maud Montgomery’s story of a plucky young orphan who makes the best of a situation, they were on the mark. The tenor and range of audience attending last Saturday’s performance of “Anne of Green Gables” was testimony to the popularity of this century-old story adapted and dramatized by Joseph Robinette.
This Players’ production is staged and directed by Colleen Alexander, who chose to create three sets with only lighting signaling both mood and place. Thanks must go to an unusually large crew and cast who collaborated to create well designed sets and authentic furnishings, as conceived by Sue Martin.
When it came to furnishing the players, Peggy Derby, Katie Lynch, and Sue Martin did their homework. The long skirts, shawls, and blouses give an authentic air to the early 1900s story. Likewise, the hairstyles are other authentic touches from the period.
Young actress Erin Zubarik brings the character of Anne Shirley to life with remarkable strength and verve. Her conviction carries her scenes, and she maintains a subtle but telling strength as she grows into young adulthood.
Acting veteran J. Louis Reid’s slightly stooped figure gives believability to his rendition of the hard working farmer. Reid brings the warm, understanding character to life in his first appearance on stage and never steps out of character.
Matthew’s sister, Marilla Cuthbert, who eventually adopts Anne, is initially firm and no-nonsense. Actress Charlotte Norris-Brown meets the challenge of portraying the restrained Marilla, who is disappointed that Anne cannot help Matthew with farm work, as she is not a boy. Her slow change of heart turns into a deep and convincing love for Anne.
Matthew and Marilla are all part of a community that helps Anne grow into a young and courageous adult, despite a series of misadventures with her amusing friend, Diana Barry, played by Gianna Kiehl.
The ensemble of young actors surrounding Anne comprises her schoolmates. Other characters who gave the piece depth were Rachel Lynde played by Kristin Holcomb, Mrs. Blewett by Lonnie Poland. Charlie Yarwood gave a nice cameo performance as Anne’s nemesis and school rival, Gilbert Blythe, as did Joyce Huff as the understanding Aunt Josephine.
The production is well worth seeing. The tableau of a small community, peopled by a cast of characters from the 1900s, reminds its audience that human nature remains the same.