Jane Eyre

EXTENDED through November 16th, 2014!
Thu & Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 4pm & 8pm, Sun at 4pm

“★★★ Streamlines the complicated plot while providing compelling glimpses of the psychological demons and moral deformities haunting its lovers… stark but effective staging choices”  –Chicago Tribune

“All the complexities of Jane’s life and the atmosphere of the novel are translated into sights, sounds, and emotions in front of us.”  –Time Out Chicago

“Dorothy Milne’s expressionistic direction moves the story along… every actor here is in top form”  –Chicago Reader

After a troubled childhood, Jane Eyre searches for new purpose as a governess at Thornfield Hall. But a fragile peace gives way to turbulent passion when she meets Mr. Rochester, a man concealing a dark secret. Their unconventional relationship leads to a terrible revelation, and Jane must forge a new future from the ashes of her ravaged dreams. As she struggles to free herself from the ghosts of her past, Jane realizes that her only hope is to find love on her own terms. A highly theatrical exploration of one woman’s independent spirit in a beloved adaptation based on the classic 1847 novel by Charlotte Brontë.

Based on the classic romance by Charlotte Brontë 
Adapted by Christina Calvit 
Directed by Dorothy Milne 
Produced by special arrangement with Playscripts, Inc. (www.playscripts.com)

Special Performances
Open Captioning
Friday, October 3 at 7:30pm

Audio Description and Touch Tour
Saturday, October 25
Touch tour: 2:30pm
Performance: 4:00pm

Visit our Accessibility page for more information.

Highlights from Jane Ayre 

  • Anu Bhatt (Jane Eyre)

    Anu is excited to be making her Lifeline Theatre debut. Other Chicago credits include: Ms. Banerjee (u/s) in the remount of Principal Principle (Stage Left Theatre/Theatre Seven); Hero in Much Ado About Nothing – Bollywood Style (Rasaka Theatre/Victory Gardens Resident Theater Program); and Ensemble in Henry VIII (Chicago Shakespeare). Anu has also worked with Silk Road Rising, Rhino Fest, Redmoon Theater, Theatre Hikes, Polarity Ensemble Theatre, and Collaboraction, among others. Television credits include Chicago Fire(NBC). In 2013, Anu received her MFA in Acting from Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. She is represented by Gray Talent Group.

  • Heather Currie (Mrs. Fairfax, Lady Ingram, Hannah)

    Heather is a proud new Lifeline Theatre ensemble member. Previous Lifeline appearances include Click, Clack, Boo!Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That TypeDooby Dooby MooDuck for President (2008 and 2012); and How To Survive a Fairy Tale. She was most recently seen as The Wicked Witch in WOZ: A Rock Cabaret at Victory Gardens Theater, and will be in Lifeline’s upcoming production of One Came Home. Heather holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and teaches in the Department of Cinema Art + Science at Columbia College Chicago, as well as the Motion Picture and Television Department at College of DuPage. Heather can also be heard singing many Saturday nights in The Nitz and Howe Experience at Davenport’s Piano Bar and Cabaret.

  • LaNisa Frederick (Grace Poole, Amy Eshton, Mary Rivers)

    This is LaNisa’s second Lifeline Theatre production, having appeared in the original production of Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type. Other Chicago credits include Measure for Measure (Goodman Theatre), The Wheel (Steppenwolf Theatre, performing u/s), Do-Gooder(16th Street Theatre), Blackademics (MPAACT), Doubt (Redtwist Theatre), The Gimmick(Pegasus Players, Jeff Nominated), Passing Strange (Bailiwick Chicago). International credits include Alexander Projekt 1 (Splitmoon Theatre) and Heidi Chronicles (E15 Productions). LaNisa is a graduate of Loyola U (BA), University of Essex (MA) and the School at Steppenwolf. She is represented by Grossman and Jack Talent.

  • Ada Grey (Adele)

    Ada is very happy to make her Lifeline Theatre debut. She has performed in Men Should Weep (Griffin Theatre), The Iron Stag King (The House Theatre of Chicago), and 6 Characters in Search of an Author (The Hypocrites). Her stage debut was at age 6 in I and My iPhone (A Red Orchid Youth Ensemble, Collaboraction’s Sketchbook). She also loves acting on camera and has made several short films and web videos. Ada also has a blog where she writes about theater that she sees. Ada is represented by Paonessa Talent.

  • Maya Lou Hlava (Helen)

    Maya is thrilled to be making her Lifeline debut with Jane Eyre. She studies acting and dance at The Performer’s School (where she is an Ensemble Member) and voice with Roberta Duchak. Recent credits include Darger & The Detective (Intuit, in association with Steppenwolf Theatre), The Wheel (Steppenwolf Theatre), Seussical and Annie (Wilmette Center for the Arts). Maya will be appearing as Mary in Court Theatre’s spring production of The Secret Garden. She is represented by Stewart Talent.

  • Anthony Kayer (Brocklehurst, Dr. Carter, Rev. Wood, Porter)

    Anthony is pleased as punch to be returning to Lifeline, where he was recently seen in Lyle Finds his Mother. Other Lifeline credits include The Emperor’s New Threads and Arnie the Doughnut. Other Chicago credits include: SITA RAM (Chicago Children’s Choir/Lookingglass), Iphigenia 2.0 (Next Theatre), The March (Steppenwolf), and Elizabeth Rex(Chicago Shakespeare). Anthony is an alumnus of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and a proud ensemble member of The Inappropriate Theatre Company.

  • Jhenai Mootz (Bertha, Blanche)

    Jhenai is excited to be back at Lifeline Theatre after understudying for The Moonstone in 2011. Other Chicago credits include: Saint JoanMan & SupermanPygmalionThe Widowers’ HousesThe MillionairessMrs. Warren’s ProfessionArms and the Man(ShawChicago); HamletTwelfth NightRichard IIIArms and the ManDancing at LughnasaMuch Ado About Nothing, and Picnic (Oak Park Theatre Festival); The Mystery of Edgar Allen Poe (First Folio Shakespeare Company); and The Women and The Philadelphia Story(Circle Theatre). Jhenai’s theatre-inspired artwork can be found in Lifeline’s lobby.

  • Kyra Morris (Mrs. Reed, Mary Ingram, Diana Rivers)

    Kyra is excited to return to Lifeline, where she previously played Hunter in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. She is an actor, director, teaching artist, & graduate of UCLA’s School of Theatre Film & Television. She most recently appeared as Jackie in Katori Hall’s Saturday Night/Sunday Morning at Steppenwolf Garage, and directed Plumes for Prologue Theatre’s Landmark Festival 2014. Previous roles include Delia in Equity Library Theatre’s reading of The Wonderful Visit; Grace Obina in International Voices Project’s reading of Just Me, You, and the Silence; and Nicollett in Blacula for Pegasus Players. She is an Associate Artist at Chicago Dramatists, and an Ensemble member with Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and Pride Films & Plays.

  • Joshua Moaney (Richard Mason, St. John Rivers)

    Joshua is very excited to be making his Lifeline Theatre debut. This is his first professional theatrical performance since graduating from Grad School. In 2013, Joshua received an MFA in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University. He is represented by Gray Talent.

  • John Henry Roberts (Edward Rochester)

    John Henry is delighted to return to Lifeline, having previously appeared in A Tale of Two CitiesHungerThe Moonstone, and Wuthering Heights. He’s a member of Strawdog Theatre Company, where his credits include Big LoveOld Times, and The Aristocrats (Non-Equity Jeff nomination: Actor-Supporting Role); his play The Sweeter Option will premiere at Strawdog in February. Other acting credits include The Hammer Trinity and Wilson Wants It All (The House), Three Days of Rain (BackStage), and To the Green Fields Beyond (Writers’ Theatre, Jeff Award nomination: Ensemble). He is represented by Paonessa Talent Agency.

  • Galya Loeb (Understudy)

    Galya is thrilled to be back at Lifeline to make her debut in Jane Eyre after interning at this wonderful theatre in 2012. Her Chicago credits include: Swing for the Picket Fences(Second City, Writing 6 Revue), The 14th Annual Sketchbook Festival (Collaboraction), and El Stories XII at the Greenhouse Theatre Center (Waltzing Mechanics). Galya received a B.S. in Theatre from Northwestern University, with an emphasis in Theatre for Young Audiences.

  • Kate McDermott (Understudy)

    Kate is making her Lifeline debut. She is an ensemble member at Piccolo Theatre, where she has been seen in Blithe Spirit (Elvira), Bah! Humbug (Beggit), and as part of the clown duo Bubble & Trubble. Other Chicago area credits include Cymbeline at First Folio Theatre. Regional credits: OthelloAs You Like ItRomeo & Juliet, and Twelfth Night (Illinois Shakespeare Festival). Kate holds an MFA in Classical Acting from Illinois State University.

  • Michael Woods (Understudy)

    Michael has worked all over the nation in film, television, and theatre. He has been seen in Showtime’s Shameless, multiple independent films, and several national commercials. Michael has performed with numerous Chicago theatre companies including Raven, Apollo, Redtwist, City Lit, Drury Lane, and Metropolis PAC. He is currently involved with the Second City Conservatory program and he is an active member of SAG and SAFD. Michael is a founding member of Eclectic Theatre Company.

  • Christina Calvit (Adaptor)

    Christina is a Lifeline Theatre ensemble member. She has written over a dozen theatrical adaptations which have been performed throughout the United States and internationally. Among them: Pride and PrejudiceAngus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging; and Pistols for Two (all Non-Equity Jeff Award winners for New Adaptation); The Talisman Ring (Jeff Award: New Adaptation); and Queen Lucia: A Musical Romp (with composer/lyricist George Howe, After Dark and Non-Equity Jeff Awards: Best New Musical). Other recent adaptations include Wuthering HeightsA Room with a View, and Mariette in Ecstasy. Her original plays include Snowflake Tim’s Big Holiday AdventureChaos (co-writer), and Several Voices from the Cloud (Agnes Nixon Award, 1981).

  • Dorothy Milne (Director)

    Dorothy has directed over twenty productions at Lifeline, receiving a Non-Equity Jeff Award (Direction) for Around the World in 80 Days and Non-Equity Jeff nominations (Direction) for Pistols for TwoJane Eyre (for which she also received an After Dark Award), Strong Poison, and Gaudy Night. Outside of Lifeline, she recently directed Little BrotherStardust, and No More Dead Dogs for Griffin Theatre. Previously, she received an Equity Jeff Nomination for her direction of Eleemosynary at Interplay Theatre Company. Dorothy also writes and performs with Sweat Girls, leads The Lifeline Storytelling Project, and co-curates The Fillet of Solo Festival.

  • Becky Bishop (Stage Manager)

    Becky joyfully returns to Lifeline for the third time after stage managing the summer smash Monstrous Regiment and the 2013 production of The City & The City. Previous work elsewhere in Chicago includes The Dead PrinceThe Half Brothers Mendelssohn, and Funeral Wedding: The Alvin Play, with Strange Tree. She’s also stage managed productions with Griffin Theatre (Robber BridegroomLetters HomeOn the Shore of the Wide WorldStage Door); Steep (Under the Blue Sky); Caffeine Theatre (Under Milk Wood); Dog & Pony (Ape); The Gift (Suicide Inc.) and others. She received her BA in Theatre and English from Winona State University. She has been a freelance stage manager in Chicago since 2006.

  • Jana Anderson (Costume Designer)

    Jana returns to Lifeline, where she designed Click, Clack, Boo!Duck for President (2008 and 2012); Dooby Dooby Moo; and Click, Clack, Moo (2010), among other KidSeries productions. Prior to coming to the U.S., Jana designed for classical opera productions at the National Theater in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. For the last decade she has been designing throughout the Chicagoland area and has collaborated with numerous theatre groups (including the Lyric Opera, Collaboraction, Porchlight, Theatre at the Center, Light Opera Works, and Redmoon) and some of the finest theatre schools (including Loyola, DePaul,and Northeastern, to name a few). Jana works at Roosevelt University, where she supervises the student costume construction crews. She also has loyal clientele in U.S. and Europe for whom she makes unique haute-couture garments.

  • William Boles (Scenic Designer)

    William is thrilled to join this creative team on his first production with Lifeline. Chicago credits include productions at Steppenwolf Theater Company, Victory Gardens, A Red Orchid Theater, American Theater Company, The Hypocrites, Side Show Theater Company, About Face Theater, and Opera Northwestern, amongst others. William received his BFA from the University of Central Florida and did his Masters studies at Northwestern University. He is the recipient of the National Design Award from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival for his design of August Wilson’s, The Piano Lesson. Upcoming projects include collaborations with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Skylight Music Theater in Milwaukee and Pig Iron Theater Company in Philadelphia.

  • Kitty Campbell (Properties Designer)

    Kitty is delighted to be working on Jane Eyre. Her recent design credits include Monstrous Regiment (Lifeline), Augusta and Noble (Adventure Stage), Flare Path (Griffin Theatre), Motortown (Steep Theatre), The Dead Prince (The Strange Tree Group), Il Viaggio A Reims(Roosevelt University), Spark (Adventure Stage), If There Is I Haven’t Yet (Steep Theatre), and Dido and Aeneas (Westminster Opera Co.). Kitty earned her BFA in Art History from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and is the Props Assistant at Blue Man Group Chicago.

  • Benjamin W. Dawson (Production Manager)

    Prior to coming to Chicago, Ben served as the Production Safety Coordinator with The Santa Fe Opera and as Art Director for several television series with networks like Discovery, PBS, MTV and VH1. In Chicago, Ben has served, among other things, as Production Manager for Sideshow Theatre Company, Pine Box Theater, and WildClaw Theatre; as Technical Director Haven Theatre and The Strange Tree Group; and as the Scene Shop Foreman at Goodman Theatre. In addition to his work with Lifeline, Ben is also an Artistic Associate with Sideshow Theatre Company and the Assistant Technical Director for Lookingglass Theatre Company.

  • Sarah Fornace (Fight & Movement Director)

    Sarah is a Chicago-based narrative designer, fight choreographer, puppeteer, and director. She is a co-artistic director of Manual Cinema, a shadow puppetry and animation company. Sarah has choreographed stunts and fights for Court Theatre, The Adventure Stage, The New Colony, Pavement Group at the Steppenwolf Garage, A Red Orchid Theatre, Dog and Pony, The Neo-Futurists, and elsewhere. She staged everything from blindfolded boxing to all-girl sword battles to roller skate brawls. Sarah teaches movement at Columbia College Chicago and is also a member of Blair Thomas and Co.

  • Kevin D. Gawley (Lighting & Projection Designer)

    A Lifeline ensemble member since 2001, Kevin won the Non-Equity Jeff Awards for his designs of The Island of Dr. Moreau and Jane Eyre, and the After Dark Award for Strong Poison. He was also nominated for Non-Equity Jeff Awards for his designs of HungerTreasure IslandNeverwhere, and The Woman in White. His lighting and scenic designs have also appeared in numerous productions at the Bailiwick, Organic, Porchlight, Blindfaith, Theatre on the Lake, Metropolis, Storefront, Loyola University, Revels Chicago, Midwest Jewish, Taylor University, and at the NC Shakespeare Festival theatres. Kevin is the Lighting and Scenic Design professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and has taught previously at Loyola University Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

  • Jordan Kardasz (Assistant Lighting & Projection Designer)

    Jordan is thrilled to be back at Lifeline assisting Kevin once again. Previous assists include The Woman in WhiteHunger, and Neverwhere. She has also lit Click, Clack, Boo!Duck for President; and How to Survive a Fairy Tale. Around town, she has worked with Strawdog (where she is an ensemble member), Sideshow (where she is an Artistic Associate), Factory, Strange Tree, The Arc, and many more. Her most recent designs were Tyrant with Sideshow and Hey Dancin! Hey Musical! with Factory Theatre. You can see more of her work next season at Strawdog when she designs Fail/SafeDesperate Dolls, and The Sweeter Option. When not working in theatres around the city, Jordan works for the Student Union at Northeastern Illinois University.

  • Christopher Kriz (Original Music & Sound Designer)

    Chris is an award-winning composer and sound designer for theatre, film, dance, and the concert stage based in Chicago. Previous Lifeline designs include Monstrous RegimentThe City & The CityThe Woman In White (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination), Pride and Prejudice(Non-Equity Jeff Nomination), and The Count Of Monte Cristo (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination). This season, Lifeline will be premiering Chris’ original musical, Soon I Will Be Invincible, adapted by Christopher Walsh. In Chicago, Chris has designed for Northlight, Steppenwolf, Writers Theatre, Victory Gardens, Next Theatre, TimeLine, First Folio, Theatre Wit, Rivendell and dozens of others. For his work in theatre, he has been honored with 9 Jeff Nominations and 2 Awards, most recently the Equity Jeff Award for Turn Of The Screw (First Folio). Chris is a proud member of United Scenic Artists 829.

  • Jason K. Martin (Dialect Coach)

    Jason is delighted to work at Lifeline. He has coached dialects for many shows at Piccolo Theatre in Evanston. Last spring he directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream there. Most recently he guided the five accents in Merry Wives of Windsor at First Folio and Irish for Playboy of the Western World at Raven. He has also coached for Silk Road, Red Tape, Shattered Globe, and the Goodman. Sometimes he treads the boards when he is not serving as Clinical Assistant Professor at UIC’s School of Theatre & Music.

  • Autumn McConnico (Dramaturg)

    Autumn is pleased to return to production at Lifeline after assistant stage managing The Killer Angels and A Tale of Two Cities. Other recent Chicago work includes First Floor Theater’s Tollbooth: A Clown Show (Stage Manager) and Twain’s World (Associate Producer). Autumn is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, where she co-curated the Theater[24] festival. She has also frequently worked as a teaching artist, director, and playwright.

  • Kate Reed (Assistant Stage Manager)

    Kate is thrilled to be working with Lifeline Theatre again after serving as assistant stage manager for Monstrous Regiment. Her previous stage management credits include The Duchess of MalfiBye Bye Birdie, and Amadeus (Northwestern University Theatre and Interpretation Center); The Xylophone West (Fine Print Theatre Co.); Much Ado About Nothing (Lovers and Madmen); and The God of Hell (Spectrum Theatre Company). She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Performance Studies.

  • Joe Schermoly (Technical Director)

    Joe is a set designer, technical director and a company member with Griffin Theatre. His design work has been seen at Lifeline Theatre (The Count of Monte CristoThe City & The CityA Tale of Two Cities), Griffin Theatre (Spelling BeeFlare PathPunk RockNo More Dead DogsPortConstant Wife), Theatre Wit (Completeness), Seanachaí (The Seafarer), Strawdog Theatre (Duchess of MalfiMaster and MargaritaRichard III), Sideshow Theatre (IdomeneusThe Ugly One), Eclipse (Beyond the HorizonThe Trestle at Pope Lick Creek) and more. He has also designed and built shows in London for The Finborough, Bush and Gate theatres among others. Joe studied set design at Northwestern University and has received two After Dark Awards and two Jeff Nominations.

  • Browyn Sherman (Assistant Director)

    Browyn is thrilled to be working on her first Lifeline show. She is a current intern at Lifeline and a recent graduate of Loyola University Chicago where she earned her BA in theatre.

From the Chicago Tribune

September 17, 2014
By Kerry Reid


Charlotte Bronte’s best-known novel, as adapted by Christina Calvit, makes its third appearance since 1991 on Lifeline’s stage. But this production, directed by Dorothy Milne, marks my first visit to Calvit’s version of Thornfield Hall. In Lifeline’s hands, Mr. Rochester’s gloomy home provides a suitably disquieting environment. While the show could afford to take bigger emotional risks, it succeeds at setting off the original story’s Romantic-era notions of psychic duality through some stark but effective staging choices.

Virginia Woolf, in “A Room of One’s Own,” criticized “Jane Eyre,” maintaining that Bronte’s own impoverished childhood meant that her books “will be deformed and twisted. She will write in a rage where she should write calmly.” Yet one of the startling elements of Calvit’s adaptation is how she physicalizes Jane’s interior demons, even as small and purportedly plain Jane (played by decidedly not plain Anu Bhatt) retains a sturdy and calm resilience in the face of emotional cataclysms. (Unlike, say, the governess in Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw,” we never doubt the straightforwardness of Bhatt’s narrator.)

Much of Jane’s back story before she goes to Thornfield as governess takes the form of a hallucinogenic prelude. We get fragmented visions of her cruel treatment at the hands of her rich Aunt Reed (Kyra Morris) and the Dickensian (or Bronte-ian, really) privations she suffered at Lowood School, run by the vicious Mr. Brocklehurst (Anthony Kayer). Most piteously, Jane’s dead school chum, Helen (Maya Lou Hlava), appears and reappears as a hollow-eyed specter in a blood-spattered white shift, repeatedly telling her “You think too much of the love of human beings, Jane.”

Given how little of that love Jane has experienced, it’s no wonder that she should yearn for it.

Jhenai Mootz’s Bertha — Rochester’s first wife and the original Madwoman in the Attic — fittingly haunts the upper levels of the stage, foreshadowing Jane’s difficulties just as Aunt Reed, Helen and Brocklehurst remind her of her painful past. There is a bit of a steampunk feel to costume designer Jana Anderson’s deconstructed corset dresses that works well with the movable stark slats of set designer William Boles’ skeletal representation of Thornfield — a world where secrets hide in plain sight and the underlying social structures provide puny support for a new love. Or for a mentally unstable first wife.

Among the adult cast members, only Bhatt and John Henry Roberts as the tormented and sardonic Rochester (more sepulchral than Byronesque) handle solo roles. (Young Hlava is joined on the juvenile team by winsome Ada Grey — Roberts’ daughter — as Adele, Rochester’s ward.) Clever double-casting underscores the story’s dualism, so for example Mootz also plays brittle and haughty Blanche Ingram, the presumptive fiancee of Rochester, and Joshua Moaney is both Bertha’s brother, Richard, whose revelations send Jane out in the cold from Thornfield, and St. John Rivers, the stiff-necked clergyman who gives her shelter.

Yet Calvit and Milne make it clear that the central lovers are also divided souls. Though Roberts’ Rochester observes of Jane that “a memory without blot or contamination must be an exquisite treasure,” we’ve seen her ghostly memories clearly, just as she sees Rochester’s struggle to be a decent man despite his past sins.

Where the production falters isn’t in the verbal parrying between these two, though it is delicious to see Roberts’ reactions to the quiet ripostes of the orphaned governess. I wanted Bhatt’s always-careful Jane and Roberts’ tormented aristocrat to ratchet up their mutual passion and need for sympathy from each other, before the fall of the house of Rochester provides them with a dual sacrifice and reunion. I suspect, though, that those emotional shadings will become richer over the run. Meantime, Lifeline’s production offers us a “Jane Eyre” that streamlines the complicated plot while still providing compelling glimpses of the psychological demons and moral deformities haunting its lovers.

From the Chicago Reader

September 16, 2014
By Suzanne Scanlon


Lifeline Theatre’s adaptation of Jane Eyre pares the sprawling novel down to an episodic tale of a girl’s quest for love and independence (however mutually exclusive those might be). Jane (Anu Bhatt) meets Rochester (John Henry Roberts) early on, and the action builds to a moving climax just before the first-act break, when the two embrace at last. After intermission, of course, we discover Rochester’s dark secret: he’s married to a madwoman (Jhenai Mootz as Bertha) he keeps in the attic. This is one part of the story that demands more attention, but for that you’ll have to see feminist theorists (or Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea) — Bertha is soon enough dead, and Jane’s journey returns her to an injured, suffering Rochester. Dorothy Milne’s expressionistic direction moves the story along with fewer expositional bits than you might expect, and while every actor here is in top form, I couldn’t keep my eyes off Joshua Moaney, whose charm and physicality commanded attention in each of his multiple roles.

From Time Out Chicago

September 22, 2014
By Kevin Thomas

I would see a show at Lifeline Theatre simply for the design. William Boles’s tall, narrow set for Jane Eyrebegins with bone-white tree branches in the ceiling that descend to a two-level, skeletal scaffold representing the schools and manor homes of 19th-century England. The claustrophobic outer passages and the open inner stage let the action flow from intimate servants’ hallways to public sitting rooms, and allow Jane (Anu Bhatt) to peek in on the high society which she serves.

Christina Calvit’s adaptation emphasizes that Jane Eyre was a gothic novel, eschewing the dreamier romantic aspects to focus on the spiritual realm and the unanswered questions that Jane contends with. It bypasses the story of her childhood, instead having three “ghosts” from the period — her aunt, her schoolmaster, and her best friend — follow her wherever she goes. Their judgements haunt her, yet also motivate her singular dedication to her independence and her true self. Bhatt’s Jane projects a strong woman that is, within, full of doubts and fears. As in the book she pulls double duty as heroine and narrator, which onstage is much to demand of a performance. It leaves Bhatt no time to breathe, and removes the possibility of a subtle or intimate portrayal.

While I may wish I felt closer to Jane as a character, I cannot deny that her convictions maintain the energy of the play, especially when opposite John Henry Robert’s Rochester. He’s gaunt, mercurial, and not at all a romantic lead — which is what makes him compelling in the role. Whether the pair should be together remains an open question, even knowing the ending. The question is not one of good or bad, but solely what is right for Jane Eyre. Even in his most charming mode, Roberts doesn’t let us forget their class differences, or their master-servant relationship.

The dedication of director Dorothy Milne to the gothic theme makes Jane Eyre a focused adaptation, which is so important when tackling a large work that doesn’t naturally lend itself to the stage. However, the gothic flourishes can also be distracting. Despite the sparse set, the staging is a noisy and busy affair with background spirits going to-and-fro and modern music occasionally cutting in. It fills space where an actor’s raw presence would normally hold our attention — and the cast is certainly capable of it, so the big displays are unnecessary.

If Lifeline’s great strength is in its staging, its occasional weakness is being too committed to the text. Aside from the ghosts of childhood past, Jane Eyre settles into a straightforward translation of the book. While parts are cut, what remains is not altered significantly. It leads to idiosyncrasies, like the origin of Rochester’s ward (played by the wonderfully bubbly Ada Grey) being unexplained; eventually she disappears from the play entirely. Other plotlines are rushed to include everything.

When Lifeline’s particular vision for the classic is emphasized, Jane Eyre becomes a proper literary experience: All the complexities of Jane’s life and the atmosphere of the novel are translated into sights, sounds, and emotions in front of us.

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