EXTENDED through July 28, 2019!

$20 Previews: May 24-Jun 2 (Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 8pm, Sun at 4pm)
Regular Run: Jun 6-Jul 14 (Thu & Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 4pm & 8pm, Sun at 4pm)

“HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – You don’t have to be a fan of the genre to enjoy this Emma… It is simply a joy to watch this play.”  –ChicagoOnstage.com

“★★★ – …Phil Timberlake’s sprightly adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma now onstage with Lifeline Theatre under Elise Kauzlaric’s nimble direction, it’s undeniably fun.”  –Chicago Tribune

After a successful experiment in matchmaking, Emma Woodhouse is convinced she can do no wrong. So the high-spirited socialite inserts herself in the love lives of everyone around her, meddling despite their wishes, and leaves a tangle of heartbreak in her wake. To restore happiness to her fractured world, Emma must swallow her pride and learn to value the needs of others over her own desires. Navigate the blunders of the heart in this world premiere adaptation of the 1815 romantic comedy by Jane Austen.

Making his Lifeline playwriting debut, ensemble member Phil Timberlake joins ensemble member Elise Kauzlaric, director of 2012’s Pride and Prejudice and 2016’s Northanger Abbey (Non-Equity Jeff nomination: Best Production–Musical), for a fresh, intimate look at this beloved Austen romp.

A world premiere based on the novel by Jane Austen
Adapted by Phil Timberlake
Directed by Elise Kauzlaric

An excerpt from Emma 
Special Performances
Audio Description and Touch Tour
Sunday, June 16
   Touch tour: 2:30pm
   Performance: 4pm

Open Captioning
Saturday, June 15 at 4pm
Friday, July 12 at 7:30pm

Visit our Accessibility page for more information.

  • Peter Gertas (Actor 3/Mr. Elton/Frank Churchill and others)

    Peter is a recent graduate of the Chicago College of the Performing Arts (CCPA) at Roosevelt University 2018. Most recently seen in Griffin Theatre’s In To America directed by Dorothy Milne, as well as Citadel’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I’m very excited to begin a career of the arts in the beautiful city of Chicago, and am super honored to be in this amazing cast and crew of Emma at Lifeline. Special thanks to my parents, and friends, whose support and love make my pursuit possible. Represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent.

  • Jeri Marshall (Actor 5/Jane Fairfax and others)

    Jeri is excited to be making her Lifeline Theatre debut. Chicago credits include: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), You Can’t Take it With You (Oak Park Festival Theatre), and Good Person of Szechwan (Cor Theatre). Regional Credits: The Tin Woman (Theatre at the Center), A Christmas Carol and To the Promised Land (Children’s Theatre of Madison). Jeri has also made appearances on Chicago Med(NBC), The Onion, as well as several voiceovers. She is an alumni of the Theatre School at DePaul University (MFA) and a proud member of SAG-AFTRA. Jeri is represented by Gray Talent Group.

  • Madeline Pell (Actor 4/Harriet Smith and others)

    Madeline is delighted to be back at Lifeline where she was last seen in A Wrinkle in Time (Mrs. Whatsit) and We Found a Hat (u/s). A graduate of Roosevelt University’s CCPA, some of Madeline’s Chicago credits include: An Ideal Husband (Ghostlight Ensemble Theatre), Twelfth Night (Three Brothers Theatre), Followspot (The Bridge), and The 39 Steps(Roosevelt). Regionally, she was seen in Titanic the Musical (Union Colony Dinner Theatre, CO) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Stampede Theatre, CO), and film credits include The Exorcist (FOX). madelinepell.com

  • Cory David Williamson (Mr. Knightley and others)

    This is Cory’s first time working with Lifeline. He has worked with Steppenwolf, Strawdog, Filament and Other Theatre. He is the co-founder and co-artistic director of The Barrens Theatre Co., where he performed in the immersive play Bloody Bathory, which is being remounted this October. He was part of the writer’s room at the New Colony and is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf and the University of Idaho.

  • Aissa Guerra (Understudy: Emma)

    Aissa is overjoyed to be working with Lifeline on Emma! Recent credits include The Van Gogh Cafe (Filament Theater), Roots in the Alley(Adventure Stage Chicago), Mechanisms of Fidelity (SideShow Theatre), and Bechdel Fest: Wave (Broken Nose Theatre). Other acting credits include work with: Victory Gardens, Steppenwolf Scout Series, Milwaukee Rep, and more. She’s also a touring actor with Barrel of Monkeys and FYI (Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health). Aissa is represented by Lily’s Talent Agency.

  • Royen Kent (Understudy: Mr. Knightley)

    Royen returns to Lifeline after performing in the remount of The Killer Angels. Recent credits include: The Full Monty (Theo Ubique), Hatfield & McCoy (House Theatre), 9 to 5 (Firebrand Theatre), The Nance (Pride Films & Plays), My Name Is Annie King and Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook (Underscore Theatre), Adding Machine: A Musical and The Pirates of Penzance (The Hypocrites). He’s also performed with Writers Theatre, Griffin Theatre, Kokandy Productions, and Theater at the Center. He performs in drag as Jenn Der Fach (@jennderfach). Gratitude to Elise and Phil, and love to Parker.

  • Royen Kent (Understudy: Frank/Elton)

    Jonathan is thrilled to join Lifeline for the first time. Jonathan received training from the Michael Chekhov Studio (Boston) and MTB Studio (NYC). He is currently a student at Second City and Theatre iO. He also co-runs a sketch comedy troupe in Chicago called The Degenerates. They perform regularly at aliveOne Bar, every Monday night at 9:30PM (Early Bird Nights @5pm) on 2683 N Halstead St. The Degenerates also have a YouTube channel where you can see some of their hilarious sketches. @TheDegeneratesTheatre

  • Jamie Sandomire (Understudy: Harriet)

    Jamie is delighted to be working with Lifeline for the first time. She moved to Chicago from Arizona in 2017, where she was an ensemble member at Childsplay for nine years, as a teaching artist and actor in performances including Interrupting VanessaJunie. B. Jones is Not a Crook, and the regional premieres and local tours of The Smartest Girl in the World and Girls Who Wear Glasses. She has also toured the U.S. as an actor/director with Missoula Children’s Theatre. She holds a BA in Theatre from Arizona State University.

  • Sana Selemon (Understudy: Jane)

    Sana is grateful to be working at Lifeline and this incredible team creating Emma! Sana hails from Columbus, Ohio where she graduated from Ohio University with a BFA in Acting and a minor in Sociolinguistics, fueling her passion for accents and the world of dialect coaching. She was last seen in 110 in the Shade (BoHo Theatre) in the fall and recently was the dialect coach for ETHIOPIANAMERICAN (Definition Theatre). Love to her friends and fam for supporting her through it all!

  • Phil Timberlake (Adaptor)

    Phil appeared on the Lifeline stage in Soon I Will Be InvinciblePride and Prejudice (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination, Best Supporting Actor), NeverwhereBusman’s Honeymoon (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination, Best Supporting Actor), The Island of Dr. Moreau (Non-Equity Jeff Award, Best Production), Queen Lucia (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination, Best Supporting Actor – Musical) and The Two Towers. He also coached dialects for Treasure IslandStrong PoisonGaudy NightTalking It Over, and A Room With a View. He is an Associate Professor of Voice and Speech at the Theatre School, DePaul University. Phil joined the ensemble in 2006.

  • Elise Kauzlaric (Director)

    Elise has been a member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble since 2005 where she has directed Northanger Abbey (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination: Direction), A Wrinkle in TimeOne Came HomeA Tale of Two CitiesThe Woman in WhitePride and PrejudiceWuthering HeightsMariette in Ecstasy (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination: Direction), Arnie the Doughnut, and The Emperor’s Groovy New Clothes; adapted The Velveteen Rabbit and Half Magic; and appeared onstage in Miss Buncle’s BookNeverwhereQueen LuciaStrong Poison, and many others. Outside of Lifeline, she directed Irish Theatre of Chicago’s production of Dancing at Lughnasa, has dialect coached numerous shows around Chicago, and appeared on stage at such theatres as The Goodman, Apple Tree, Oak Park Festival, First Folio Shakespeare Festival, and Griffin Theatre, where she received a Non-Equity Jeff Nomination for Supporting Actress for On the Shore of the Wide World.

  • Kate Reed (Stage Manager)

    Kate is excited to be working with Lifeline again after most recently stage managing We Found A Hat. Previously at Lifeline, she has worked on Bunnicula (2018), You Think It’s Easy Being the Tooth Fairy?Arnie The Doughnut (2017), Her Majesty’s WillNorthanger AbbeyFable-ous!Lester’s Dreadful SweatersMr. Popper’s Penguins (2015), Soon I Will Be InvincibleOne Came HomeJane Eyre (2014), and Monstrous Regiment. Her other Chicago area credits include work with Mudlark Theater, The Side Project, and the Northwestern University Theatre and Interpretation Center. She has a degree in Performance Studies from Northwestern.

  • Aly Renee Amidei (Costume Designer)

    Aly Renee Amidei has been designing costumes and writing plays in Chicago for nineteen years. She is proud ensemble member at Lifeline Theatre, Strawdog Theatre Company, and Buffalo Theatre Ensemble. Her costume and makeup designs have been seen at Michigan Shakespeare Festival, Irish Theater of Chicago, Magik Theatre in San Antonio, Buffalo Theater Ensemble, Stage Left, Artistic Home, House Theater, Piven Workshop, and Vitalist Theater. She is the assistant professor of costume design at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and her research focuses on designing for new works and re-envisioned classics. Upcoming projects include Pomona at Steep, Two Gentlewomen of Verona at Lakeside Shakespeare, and Cake at Buffalo Theatre Ensemble. She will also be adapting Bunny’s Book Club for Lifeline’s KidSeries in January 2020.

  • Diane Fairchild (Lighting Designer)

    Diane is thrilled to be working with this incredible team. Previous Lifeline credits include Time Warp TrioYou Think It’s Easy Being the Tooth Fairy?Anna KareninaHer Majesty’s WillNorthanger AbbeyOne Came Home, and A Tale of Two Cities. Regional credits: City Theatre, 1st Stage Springhill, Boise Contemporary Theatre, and Ensemble Studio Theatre. Other Chicago area credits: Sideshow, Rivendell, Citadel, Wheaton College, UIC, and Teatro Vista.

  • Persephone Lawrence (Props Designer)

    Persephone is thrilled to work her first show with Lifeline Theatre. Other prop design credits include Wife Material (Underscore Theatre) and The Worst Mother in the World (Halcyon Theatre). Other credits include, Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, The Paramount Theatre, Creede Repertory Theatre, Music Theatre Wichita, Virginia Shakespeare Festival, Little Theatre of the Rockies, and Winterstate Entertainment. Persephone would like to thank DS for his unconditional love and support.

  • Sarah Lewis (Scenic Designer)

    Sarah is thrilled to return to Lifeline, where she designed Arnie the Doughnut and Northanger Abbey. Other recent credits include Steel Magnolias (Big Noise Theater), Miracle on South Division Street and The 39 Steps (Buffalo Theatre Ensemble), Darkness After Dawn and Fight City (The Factory Theater). Her work has been seen at Idle Muse Theater, Mudlark Theater, Willmette Children’s Theater, Pride Film & Plays, JCC Mayer Kaplan, Pegasus Theatre, and Piccolo Theatre. Sarah currently works as the Assistant Charge Scenic Artist at Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

  • Maren Robinson (Dramaturg)

    Maren is pleased to be working with Elise again on their third foray into Austenland after having been dramaturg for productions of Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. Maren is a proud Lifeline ensemble member where she has been dramaturg for both productions of NeverwhereThe MoonstoneHungerThe Woman in White, and Miss Holmes. She also has worked on over forty productions in Chicago with Court, Strawdog, Eclipse, Caffeine, Greasy Joan and Camenae theaters. Maren is also a company member and resident dramaturg at TimeLine Theatre where she has been dramaturg for over twenty plays. She holds a MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago. She is an instructor at The Theatre School at DePaul and Associate Director of the Master of Arts Program in Humanities at the University of Chicago. Maren is the Chicago VP of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.

, https://boxoffice.diamondticketing.com/lifelinetheatre/events/Emma,

From ChicagoOnstage.com

Lifeline’s “Emma” is a clever, utterly hilarious joy
June 5, 2019
By Karen Topham


As a lifelong Jane Austen fan, I have always found Emma, the story of a young aristocrat whose well-intentioned meddling in the lives of everyone around her does far more harm than good, to be her most overtly comical book. Emma’s firm belief that she is an excellent matchmaker, based solely on one dubious success, gives this young woman a raison d’etre and carte blanche to try it again and again, making the most egregious mistakes and ignoring what is right in front of her in a very humorous satire of the upper class of the Austen era. Loaded with indelible characters and witty dialogue, Emma is Austen at the top of her game.

And then along comes Lifeline Theatre’s new adaptation of the novel, written by Phil Timberlake and directed by fellow ensemble member Elise Kauzlaric, which somehow manages to make the novel even more hilarious with creative characterizations, witty staging, and an inventive format that keeps the audience completely engaged while allowing the cast to strut their collective stuff. Timberlake and Kauzlaric have upped the comic ante by adding broad visual humor to the usual Austen mix. With a cast of only five portraying a dozen different characters, often trading off roles mid-dialogue even to the extreme of one actor having conversations with herself, this Emma is a brilliant and ebullient joy of a production.

It’s also a play that allows its ensemble to outshine its lead, even though Emma Sipora Tyler is excellent and expressive as Emma Woodhouse. But Tyler has only a single role to play and so does not get to venture into the outrageous and frantic role-switching that takes place elsewhere. Using only voice changes and exaggerated hand gestures (and a cane for Emma’s father), the other four performers play multiple roles irrespective of gender, costume, and which of them may have established the character. Timberlake’s script allows the simple expedient of direct address to keep them all straight, and the actors do the rest. The result is manic and marvelous, an Emma that pushes all the right buttons and manages to make a familiar story new again.

The ensemble is amazing. Maddie Pell plays Harriet Smith and others, and you couldn’t ask for a more flexible actress: as the play went on, I found myself able to distinguish her multiple characterizations in a millisecond based on her facial expression alone, even before I noted the playful physicalizations attached to each role. Cory Williamson portrays Mr. Knightly and others, allowing him to have much more fun than playing the internalized emotions of the “superior” man alone would give him. His rapid switches from Knightley’s stolid personality to various more broad and effusive characters is a never-ending delight. Similarly, Jeri Marshall’s calm, accomplished Jane Fairfax gives way to an over-the-top, extravagant portrayal of the singular Mrs. Elton. Peter Gertas, who plays both Frank Churchill and Mr. Elton along with others, is equally enjoyable in his rapid switches between roles.

This is not any kind of traditional adaptation, and Timberlake and Kauzlaric (as well as the cast) clearly had fun putting it together. The director had her work cut out for her: just keeping track of who was to play whom when must have required a lengthy spreadsheet, let alone envisioning ways to make the transitions work without getting repetitive and keeping the characters clear to the audience. There are many wonderful moments, such as Pell’s hilarious one-actor dialogue between Harriet and Miss Bates or Williamson’s stage left exit as the staid Mr. Knightly followed by what seemed an instantaneous stage right entrance as the loud and friendly Mr. Westin. Meanwhile, Tyler’s likable, focused presence as the title character holds everything together with her direct commentary on the action and her own slow self-discovery.

You don’t have to be a fan of the genre to enjoy this Emma. There are lovely period costumes by Ali Renee Amadei and period music by Andrew Hansen, but this is Austen for everyone. It is simply a joy to watch this play.

From The Chicago Tribune

‘Emma’ at Lifeline Theatre: Jane Austen’s matchmaking story is played for warmth and laughs
June 8, 2019
By Kerry Reid


Back before Tinder and OKCupid, making a suitable match — for single men in possession of a good fortune and the single women depending upon finding them — was a fraught proposition. One might well be tempted to rely upon the advice of a well-meaning friend to steer them to a safe marital harbor. That might not always be wise. But in Phil Timberlake’s sprightly adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma, now onstage with Lifeline Theatre under Elise Kauzlaric’s nimble direction, it’s undeniably fun.

Timberlake makes his Lifeline playwriting debut with this piece, and the ensemble features several actors new to the company’s stage, including Emma Sipora Tyler, a recent grad of Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, in the title role. She’s surrounded by four other actors who, in addition to each playing one major role all on their own, also switch all the subsidiary characters among themselves — often by donning a pair of glasses or ostentatiously opening a fan.

If you’ve never read Austen’s original or seen any of the many film adaptations (a new one, directed by fashion photographer Autumn de Wilde, is reportedly in the works), this device may take a few minutes to adjust to as you sort out who’s who in Highbury. But both Timberlake’s script (which dispenses with any narration and uses only a few instances of mostly unnecessary direct address from Emma to the audience) and Kauzlaric’s sharp staging (which uses a minimum of set pieces to keep the action humming along) soon place us right at home in Emma’s world.

As Sarah Lewis’ set design — arches covered with paintings of lush greenery — suggests, this Surrey backwater is a soft, bucolic place. Rigid aristocracy — such as the fearsome Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who threatens to thwart Elizabeth Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice” — doesn’t enter the picture here. Perhaps that is why the class differences, though certainly present, don’t seem to exert the same relentless pull as in Austen’s earlier novel.

The interchangeability of the smaller supporting characters enhances this sense of social fluidity — at any moment, someone else can turn into the impoverished talkative spinster, Miss Bates, or Mr. Woodhouse, Emma’s hypochondriacal father. Small wonder, then, that Tyler’s Emma can’t see any reason why her orphan friend, Harriet (Madeline Pell, in an endearingly naifish performance) shouldn’t set her sights on Mr. Elton (Peter Gertas), the town vicar.

Mr. Elton fancies Emma instead — and the recurring theme of the novel and this play is that Emma, despite her good intentions, isn’t just terrible at figuring out love matches for her friends. She’s also hopeless at reading cues from the men around her, including the plainspoken but goodhearted Knightley (Cory David Williamson), who tries to set her straight.

For the most part, this is all played for warm laughs. Tyler’s performance felt a bit hesitant at first on the night I attended, but she brings unaffected charm to her Emma, which is key. Truthfully, Emma doesn’t possess the same inner depths as Elizabeth Bennet. Austen reportedly said, before writing the novel, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” But it’s hard not to like Tyler’s Emma. Much like Alicia Silverstone’s Cher in “Clueless” (for my money, the film version most faithful to the spirit, if not the times, of Austen’s original), she’s not spiteful.

Even her harshest moment — a cutting gibe to the kind but annoying Miss Bates — registers here as, well, clueless more than cruel. Tyler’s Emma isn’t out for blood. She’s sheltered and sometimes silly in her single-minded passion for matchmaking, but she’s not scheming. We root for her to figure it out.

We also root for the rest of the company to pull off the quick transformations, and Kauzlaric’s cast — which also includes the wry Jeri Marshall as Jane Fairfax, the effortlessly graceful niece of Miss Bates who inspires Emma’s envy — is quite equal to the task. There are several amusing running gags in the staging, such as Miss Bates’ elderly mother being played by a dressmaker’s dummy, and tall floor lamps standing in as guests at a ball.

This Emma takes a little while to find its feet, but like its heroine, its flaws can be overlooked because it’s so eager to please — while finding unexpected moments of insight amid the romantic misunderstandings.

From Picture this Post

Lifeline Theatre Presents EMMA Review – Misadventures in Matchmaking
June 4, 2019
By Harold Jaffe


In sharp contrast with the grief and horror of Frankenstein or the absurdist satire of The Man Who Was Thursday, Lifeline Theatre closes out their 2018-19 season with a vivacious and charming production of Jane Austen’s comedy of manners Emma. In this writer’s view, both lifelong Austen lovers and first-time fans will find something new to enjoy in this world premiere adaptation by Lifeline company member Phil Timberlake.

Deeply Human Lead Anchors Show
“Vivacious and charming” could also just as well describe the show’s eponymous Miss Woodhouse, brought sprightfully and delightfully to life by Emma Sipora Tyler. Tyler infuses her character with both joie de vivre and reckless self-confidence. While it certainly does appear in individuals of every age and social class, this kind of confidence often seems to be least tarnished by experience in young people from well-off backgrounds. Tyler keeps Emma’s sense of nigh-infallibility carefully balanced on the border of endearing and exasperating.

The character’s assurance is not entirely unfounded: as the story starts, her dear friend and former governess Miss Taylor has just wed the widower Mr. Weston after Emma herself had introduced them.

Naturally, she concludes, she must have have a rare and splendid talent for matchmaking, and to refrain from exercising it further (on every eligible individual she encounters) would be grave negligence. The notion that her instincts for romantic compatibility might be less than flawless does not cross her mind.

“I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,” wrote Jane Austen of this proud, headstrong young woman. While it is true that among Emma’s many amiable qualities are some distinct weaknesses of character, Austen’s words, Lifeline company member Elise Kauzlaric’s direction, and especially Tyler’s nuanced portrayal yield a protagonist audiences may find impossible not to like.

Lifeline Theatre Actors Juggle Roles Dizzyingly, Brilliantly
For all the main character’s vividness and charisma, though, the play would be nothing, in this writer’s view, without its supporting cast, and the other actors deliver in spades. In Timberlake’s adaptation, just four actors portray the other characters, about a dozen of them in all.

What is remarkable about this is that, save a handful of roles played exclusively by one actor, most of these characters are bounced around to whichever performer happens to be available in a given moment. So while Mr. Knightley, Emma’s close friend and (attempted) voice of reason, is always played by Cory David Williamson, in another scene Williamson might be Mr. Weston or hilariously loquacious family friend Miss Bates. Jeri Marshall is principally Emma’s genial yet envied contemporary Jane Fairfax, but at the drop of a hat could herself be Miss Bates or the rich and vulgar Mrs. Elton.

Some viewers may find this rapid switching about of the supporting parts a touch perplexing for the first scene or two. Yet as the conceit becomes familiar, the flexibility with which Williamson, Marshall, Peter Gertas, and Madeline Pell jump from role to role, coupled with the remarkably consistent details of manner and speech used to distinguish each role, allow the four of them to create a richly varied community.

Set amidst the pastures and parlor rooms of Regency England, Emma’s relationships with each of these individuals give both life and depth to her misadventures in matchmaking. While the title character at times is preoccupied with the superficial, Lifeline Theatre gets right to the heart of a comedy that is all about digging under the surface.

From Broadway World Chicago

EMMA at Lifeline Theatre
June 9, 2019
By Emily McClanathan


“I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” So Jane Austen famously prefaced the vivacious Emma Woodhouse, whom she describes as “handsome, clever, and rich” in the opening words of her 1815 novel. Indeed, Emma, the meddlesome, would-be matchmaker is arguably the most controversial among Austen’s canon of beloved protagonists. Yet, love or hate the leading lady, EMMA features many of Austen’s most amusing supporting characters, and here is where Lifeline Theatre’s production of this romantic comedy thrives.

In Phil Timberlake’s new adaptation, directed by Elise Kauzlaric, five actors share a dozen characters, with the exception of Emma Sipora Tyler, who plays Emma Woodhouse throughout. In the small English town of Highbury, Emma lives alone with her doting, elderly father and spends her abundant leisure time interfering in the love lives of her friends and neighbors. Her efforts cause more harm than good and blind her to the wishes of her own heart, until Emma reforms her ways and, Austen-like, everything wraps up tidily with several weddings.

Not only does each ensemble member portray multiple characters; in addition, individual supporting roles are often shared among multiple actors. This may sound like a recipe for confusion, but Cory Williamson, Peter Gertas, Maddie Pell, and Jeri Marshall make the rapid-fire shifts not only clear, but also highly entertaining. Some exchanges are reminiscent of improv games or acting warm-ups. For example, the toss of a cane indicates a passing of Mr. Woodhouse’s role from one actor to another, with the second actor immediately adopting his stooping gait and worried air.

Employing another classic comedic device, a single actor occasionally switches back and forth between two characters in conversation with each other. In one memorable scene, Maddie Pell, a promising young character actor, hops up and down as she flips between Miss Bates, a good-hearted but silly spinster, and Harriet Smith, Emma’s amiable but less-than-bright protégée. There are also several sly nods to this adaptation’s small-ensemble format. For instance, Harriet innocently observes that Frank Churchill “looks a bit like Mr. Elton” (Peter Gertas plays both characters).

In this production, the strong supporting ensemble outshines the protagonist. Granted, Emma Woodhouse is a slippery role. Despite Austen’s disclaimer that people would not like her heroine, my favorite portrayals of Emma are honest about her faults but also reveal her redeeming qualities: infectious enthusiasm for life, devotion to her father, liberality (within limits) in her choice of friends, and, ultimately, willingness to mend her mistakes. At Lifeline Theatre, I’d like to see more of these qualities in Emma, as well as higher emotional stakes: for example, her fiery temper in her tiffs with Mr. Knightley and her run-ins with the pompous Mr. and Mrs. Elton. This is not to fault actor, director, or adapter in entirety; a runtime of two hours (including intermission) makes it impossible to match the thorough character development of a classic novel. However, the balance between title character and comedic supporting roles could be more even.

Overall, Lifeline Theatre’s EMMA capitalizes on the humor and wit of Jane Austen in a clever piece of ensemble theater. Austen aficionados and newcomers alike should find plenty to enjoy in this light romantic comedy. EMMA can respectably take its place in Lifeline’s long-running tradition of adapting classic literary works for the stage.