Do Something with Yourself

    A play about Charlotte Brontė by Linda Manning

    - By Maria E. Torres -

    I came away from "Do Something With Yourself" very impressed. I'm still not sure if I liked it or not, but it is a very powerful piece of work and deserves attention.

    It is a two-character play, with one very imaginative set, in which the playwright, Linda Manning, takes the part of Charlotte, and a male actor, Michael Pinney, a co-founder of the Miranda Theater, and the playwright's husband, plays many parts, all of which are various men in Charlotte's life, including Rochester. Both actors are trained in dance, have magnificent control over their bodies, and a wonderful rapport with each other.

    Much of the staging is extremely imaginative. The play itself is almost as much performance art as it is drama. For me, this worked both to advantage and disadvantage. As many times as I was moved by an effect, I was recalled from my involvement by a feeling of self-consciousness or archness. Sometimes I felt the easy way out was taken by using a metaphor or a prop as symbol instead taking the opportunity to use a dramatic moment to exam a conflict or a resolution in-depth.

    There are very powerful scenes, especially one between Charlotte and Branwell, which has explosive tension, and a scene in the second act between Mr. Bronte and Charlotte which extremely cathartic. Inanimate objects are skillfully invested with breathing life. Toward the end of the first act, this is done to tremendous effect. I don't want to be very specific because the play is very much an event, and should be experienced as one.

    I have quibbles about the treatment of several of the characters, especifically Mr. Bronte and Henry Nussey, but Branwell is well written and wonderfully portrayed, and Arthur Bell Nicholls is a rounded, three-dimensional character with subtle shadings and a human, sympathetic imperfection. I have real trouble with the basic absense of Emily and Anne, and the other influential women in Charlotte's life, who inspired Charlotte, kept her back, or insisted that she to "do something with" herself; however, Ms. Manning is consistent with her theme and structure, and knows what she wants to show. This portrayal is as much the playwright as it is Charlotte. The play makes no bones about being otherwise, and is very honest in its presentation. The fact that it stayed with me and made me think and feel over-rides the question of it being "to taste". It did what it set out to do, and did it very successfully. If the opportunity comes to see it, I would recommend that it be seen.

    Miranda Theatre in New York 10 April - 28 April 1996.

Since the search engines on the Internet don't interpret the letters e and ė as the same letter
I will hereby write Bronte once on this page so it gets listed at searches for both Brontė and Bronte. There!

Back to the Brontė page! Tillbaka till Brontė!