Last weekend was very special! My daughters and I drove from our home near Akron, Ohio to Chicago, about 7 hours away, to see a play at The Lifeline Theater in the Rogers Park neighborhood. This play was a world premier of an adaptation of Miss Buncle’s Book, written by my favorite author, D.E. Stevenson. And it was wonderful! I had wondered a bit how we would like it. I’ve been reading Stevenson since the late sixties and at times have felt I had almost memorized the book! That’s not usually a recipe for liking its translation into another media. But Christina Calvit’s adaptation was magic!
The story of Miss Buncle’s Book is a comedy which is sometimes very close to a farce and also has a bit of romance in it and poetic justice as well. Barbara Buncle realizes suddenly that the depression is affecting her dividends and wonders what can be done to improve the situation. She abandons the thought of keeping chickens because her maid Dorcas doesn’t like the idea at all and instead, decides to try to write a book. And being convinced that she has no imagination, she writes the book about her own little village of Silverstream which becomes Copperfield in her novel.(And she becomes John Smith.) But if Barbara has no imagination, she certainly has an astonishing ability to understand character and depict it with photographic veracity. When her friends begin to recognize themselves in this surprising best seller they are furious, many of them at least. They try to surpress the book. They try to unearth the actual identity of the author. They think they know who it is and plan a suitable revenge, but of course, they have chosen the wrong person.
Halfway through the book Barbara has an imaginary “Golden Boy” dance through the village piping a tune which wakes up everyone and they begin to act in unprecedented ways….And then, the actual villagers begin to do some of the same things as their fictional counterparts. It becomes funnier every moment and you wonder where the story can end.
Meanwhile, Barbara is doing some transformation of her own. Her confidence grows with her success and her acquaintance with her publisher. Suggestions from friends and her new affluence send her up to London to have her hair waved and consult a very clever dressmaker who helps her to buy a new and flattering wardrobe. And she begins to write a second book….a book about a woman who wrote a book about a woman who wrote ……..
If this sounds intriguing to you, I hope you will buy a copy of the book. It has been reprinted by at least three publishers in the last few years. And it is delightfully entertaining, as is the play based upon it.
You can read more about it and see some pictures at the link above.
Besides the fun of the play, my daughters and I had hours and hours together to just chat and talk and it was an amazing joy! We had a lovely dinner at a pub nearby which offered a 20# discount for people going to the theater. It was called the Act One Pub.
Here is a link to the restaurant: http://www.maynestage.com/the-pub.
And if you have a chance to see this play, or anything at this theater, I think you will NOT be disappointed! Alice, Emily and I were all a bit sad we don’t live closer to this stage, or they were not in Cleveland or Akron! They even have a wonderful program of plays and workshops for children…..I think the people who live near them are lucky!