***** When one hears the name “Tom Jones”, one either thinks about the famous eating scene in the romantic novel/movie of the same name written by Henry Fielding, or the sexy singer of the 1960′s, but many of us were not aware that a stage version of the novel has been adapted by Jon Jory, and Northlight Theatre in Skokie, under the direction of William Brown has brought it to its stage.
This is indeed a difficult production to stage as the subject of the play is one Tom Jones, who is a man with tremendous passion for the opposite sex and who finds himself in trouble, constantly.
Tom ( deftly handled by Sam Ashdown, a newcomer to Northlight) is in love with one girl, Sofia ( the charming Nora Fiffer, who also plays other roles in this somewhat confusing march of the females in his life), but since he is not of the class, her father, Squire Western ( another fine character developed by Chicago favorite John Lister), who has other plans for his fair daughter, Tom finds himself sleeping with almost every other woman he encounters.
This rendition finds is following the sexual and sensual adventures of a young man who does not find out who he is until the very end as we are all advised that what we were told at the very onset of the production is in fact, all false. The surprise has little effect on the outcome but the two plus hours of bawdy conduct, swiftly directed by Brown with some great fight sequences and choreography (Tyler Rich on the fights and Sarah Gabel on the choreography ) is divine. There are some very well executed sword fights and if you know Northlight, you know that the stage is very near to the audience, which means control is very important.
The set ( (Jeffrey D. Kmiec) is a multi tiered one that allows for a bedroom ( with a nice sized bed, where many scenes take place) and many other uses, including a garden swing that comes down from the high ceiling, and works. The lighting (Sarah Hughey) and costumes (Rachel Ann Healy and Carolyn Cristofani) along with the props (Sarah Burnham) and the original music (Andrew Hansen, who also does the sound) complete the production on the tech side and make it quite complete and pleasing to the eye.
There are some very solid performances from many who play many roles, Chris Amos, Molly Glynn, Melanie Keller,Christina Panfillo, Eric Parks and Marcus Truschinski. As you can see , the cast is not as large as the number of characters, so what may confuse you is that the female characters appear to be someone other than who you think they are. It doesn’t matter to “Tom Jones”, of course, because he beds them all! By the way, the food scene is still a part of the play, although nowhere near what we ay in the film, but nonetheless, a very seductive and sensual feeling as they “share a pear”
I attended a matinée, where many subscribers, who appear to be senior citizens were in the audience and despite the bawdy story, no one left at intermission and many of the members of the audience seemed to walk a little better as they left the theater ( walkers were folded and carried). That being said, they also got the humor of the story and that says a lot for the total production value of what Northlight brings to its stage.
“Tom Jones” will continue at Northlight located at 9501 N. Skokie Blvd ( the Skokie extension of Cicero Avenue) in Skokie through February 23rd with performances as follows:
Tuesdays ( except Feb.4th and 18th) at 7:30 p.m
Wednesdays 1 p.m. ( except 2/5), and 7:30 p.m.(except 2/12)
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2:30 p.m.and 7 p.m. ( except 2/2)
Tickets range from $25 and are available at the box office, by phone at 847-673-6300 or online at www.northlight.org
There is plenty of free parking and since we are just a stone’s throw from Old Orchard, many dining spots to choose from, including a Jameson’s Charhouse right next door.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Tom Jones”.