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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

APT: Dickens in America

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If history is to be believed, Charles Dickens was as much an actor as a writer, developing the characters in his novels before a mirror to get them just right before committing them to paper.

In American Players Theatre’s production of Dickens in America, the audience is the mirror and company member James Ridge is Dickens. The one-man production, now showing at the intimate Touchstone Theatre, imagines what it would have been like if Dickens, who did two literary reading tours of America, had stopped in Wisconsin during his final tour in 1868.

In the production, Dickens is cast amid his own characters, and the author’s social reform views are mixed with aspects of his life. This version, directed once again by C. Michael Wright, has been revised since it was last performed at the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in 2006 and the narrative hangs together a bit better than before as a mix of sentimentality and social commentary.

But the true reason to see this production is Ridge, whose tour de force performance brings both life and depth to Dickens and the dozens of characters he performs. Ridge has always been one of APT’s most versatile performers. In this case he delivers characters ranging from comic to tragic, while coloring Dickens himself with an emotional and intellectual brush dipped in the deepest hues.

Dickens in America runs through Oct. 19. For tickets, call 608-588-2361 or email boxoffice@americanplayers.org.