PROVO — I grew up with Anne of Green Gables. I remember nights spent listening to the audiobooks and falling asleep to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s enchanting words. The story was always a comforting one, easy to listen to and filled with personable characters that I grew to love. The Covey Center‘s production of Anne of Green Gables establishes a beautifully nostalgic imagining of this classical tale, and evoked a very cozy, very contented feel. Director Lynne Bronson managed to keep the production streamlined—no showboating, no excessive thrills. It was all heart, and beautifully centered on the characters.
The play itself remains simplistic—there’s no overarching storyline, or anything terribly complex to process. Rather, Anne of Green Gables (as playwritten by Jody Johnston Davidson) focuses on character-defining moments in the vivid life of Anne Shirley. She comes to the Cuthberts as an accident—they’d been expecting an orphaned boy to come live with them to aid with farm work, but end up with an extremely imaginative and dramatic little girl. Her flair for theatrics and verbosity stand at odds with Marilla Cuthbert’s practical, austere personality. Over time, however, Anne’s vibrant personality becomes cherished, and she becomes a welcomed addition to the Cuthbert homestead and Avonlea community. The moments playwright Davidson chose to include served as a decent representation of the original novels, though I wished for more vignettes. With a running time of only 90 minutes, there was almost certainly time to give more emotional depth to the story; I wanted more of the tender moments between Anne and Matthew, or a more solid representation of her academic growth. It was charming, certainly, but the ending left me with a “to be continued” feeling.
While the set by Dan James reflected a more simplistic representation of the era, I found Nancy Cannon‘s costumes to be particularly lush. Anne’s pieces in particular told a progression of her emotional security and I loved the visual spectacle of each character’s costuming. Dresses and accessories were absolutely gorgeous and worth the price of admission alone. I didn’t particularly care for the theatrically drawn-on freckles dotting Anne’s face and thought a more subtle approach would have been fitting for the black box setting, but otherwise, loved the visual aspects of this play.
Casting proved an absolute strength in this production. Miranda Maurin brought a dynamic and high-energy performance that evoked all the classical tokens of Anne Shirley. She was spirited, and theatrical, and managed to settle beautifully into moments of sweet vulnerability. I couldn’t help but to love her, temper and all. Maurin played the specificities of Anne’s relationships with Marilla, Matthew, and Diana with dexterity and Maurin remained a delight every moment she was on stage. I particularly enjoyed Rachel Aylworth’s rendition of Diana Barry. She was effervescent and seemed to translate perfectly on the stage from the Diana I remember reading long ago. Her enthusiasm and the authentic nature of her performance made her easy to love. Also of note was Heather Jones as Marilla; Jones portrayed her authority and pragmatism with subtlety, and showed the softening of Marilla’s heart with beautiful ease. I loved Lon P. Keith‘s Matthew as well, and only wished he’d had more time on stage.
Overall, Anne of Green Gables was a charming show. The simplicity of the story and emotionally versatile performances made for an enchanting little throwback to my childhood, and I appreciated the genuine sweetness that resonated in the final product. I’d recommend this show to families, especially those with younger children that have yet to be introduced to the theater.