Just in time for our sunny summer weather, the Actors Ensemble of Berkeley is bringing a charming and enjoyable new adaptation of E.M. Forster’s much-loved 1908 novel, A Room with a View, to the recently renovated John Hinkel Amphitheater. And at no charge!
Excellently adapted by Stuart Bousel, the new variation on Forster’s novel takes a lighthearted, optimistic and theatrical approach to the beloved story of a group of British tourists in Florence whose lives continue to intertwine afterward.
A Room with a View, John Hinkel Park Amphitheater, Saturdays and Sundays through July 16
Lucy Honeychurch (Sophie Ruf) is a young upper-middle-class English woman who takes her first trip to Italy. As a result of her travels, and with the support of some new acquaintances, Lucy outgrows her Victorian constrictions and emerges as a less restrained and more independent woman.
Andrew Calabrese’s direction hits just the right notes between interpreting the play as a light comedy of England’s classist Victorian society and a sympathetic view of Lucy’s emerging strength of character, all while preserving the optimistic view of life that infused the novel.
While in Florence at the Pension Bertolini, under the supervision of her older overly fussy spinster cousin and chaperone, Charlotte (Megan Briggs), Lucy meets well-meaning Mr. Emerson (Keith Jefferds) and his handsome son, George (Tyler Scott Null), who’s in a bit of a melancholy funk. Old Mr. Emerson is scorned by Charlotte and other Pension guests as tactless and lower-class when he kindly offers to switch rooms with Lucy and Charlotte. Women want a room with a view, but men don’t care, explains Mr. Emerson.
George and Lucy share several unchaperoned meetings while wandering around Florence. They even engage in a passionate kiss (!). Unfortunately, chaperone Charlotte views this shameful event. Lucy and Charlotte must leave for Rome immediately and never discuss the incident again, the two women agree.
When Lucy returns home to England, she is caught between her English Victorian roots and the ease of society she appreciated in Italy. When who should re-emerge into her life but the Emersons? And what should she do about her effete, upper-class, almost fiancé Cecil (Francis Serpa)?
I encourage you to come to the John Hinkel Park Amphitheater in the next few weeks to see for yourself. The cast is first-rate, with special kudos to Sophie Ruf’s Lucy. The direction, costumes, and sound effects greatly enhance the production. And don’t forget to look up toward the high paths above the stage to see Lucy and George take a long tree-lined walk toward each other.
We in Berkeley are fortunate to have theater producers like Actors Ensemble of Berkeley who, out of pure love of theater, present cultural offerings at no cost or affordable prices. Actors Ensemble is the longest-running theatrical organization in Berkeley. It’s an entirely volunteer-run organization that has produced shows in Berkeley since 1957, with free productions in John Hinkel Park since 2013.
The next Actors Ensemble production, Faeries of the Moonlight, with book and lyrics by Mercedes Cohen, music composed and arranged by Aoife Ni Conchobhair O’Connor, and directed by Michael Cohen, begins Aug. 19 in John Hinkel Park.
A Room with a View is playing at the John Hinkel Park Amphitheater, 41 Somerset Place, on Saturdays and Sundays through July 16. All performances are at 4 p.m., except for Saturday, July 8, which is at 6 p.m.
All shows are free-of-charge. The amphitheater can seat 300 people. Just bring a pillow, blanket, or lawn chair and enjoy. The performance is about two hours, including a short intermission. Grilled hot dogs are available for $5 at intermission. Parking is limited to neighboring residential streets. For information and reservations (only for those visitors who need mobility assistance) email email@example.com.