The Dragonfly Multicultural Arts Center transported their audience back to the mid-nineteenth century through an early twentieth century medium this February 3rd. They did so in the form of a twenty first century rendition of a radio show broadcast. Dragonfly presented an engaging version of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved bildungsroman Little Women via Zoom and Facebook.
As with all Dragonfly “old-time radio shows,” the company opted not to show their audience a blank screen. They allowed spectators to watch the actors perform live. The latter leveraged the set-up to showcase their histrionic prowess.
The show introduced theatregoers to the March family. Jo (played by Shauni Ramai) harbored an interest of becoming a writer. She unwittingly became the love interest of Laurie (Nick Endo). Meg (Anna Paone) pursued a traditional family life after Mr. Brook (Thom Boyer) sought her affections. Amy (Laura Paone), the pseudo-intellectual of the group, displayed a fondness for malapropisms. Beth (Justine D’Souza) rounded out the quartet of siblings.
The young ladies’ mother, Marmee (Monica Shah) encouraged her daughters to pursue happiness. Their Aunt March (Catherine LaMoreaux) tempered them. The two performers played these oppositional roles perfectly. Ms. Shah always spoke with a soothing, ethereal voice. Ms. LaMoreaux delivered her lines with the sternness of a drill sergeant.
During an exchange between Laurie and Jo, Nick Endo’s character informed Shauni Ramai’s, “You’re on fire.” Ms. Ramai’s performance made it difficult to determine whether Mr. Endo referred to the role or the person playing it.
Shauni Ramai shows an extraordinary ability to communicate her characters’ feelings through non-verbal means. Ms. Ramai exercised this skill throughout her performance as Jo. When discussing Jo’s corresponding with Professor Baer (Nathaniel Tomb) “a lot,” her mouth twitched slightly to express her interest in him. During a conversation with the professor, Ms. Ramai allowed a bright smile to develop on her face as she described Jo’s love of writing prose.
Ms. Ramai displayed the same aptitude when speaking the dialog. She spoke the show’s funniest line. When catching Mr. Boyer’s character wooing Anna Paone’s, she observed: “Aunt March, John Brook is acting dreadfully and Meg is liking it!” She also captured the character’s ambivalence over rejecting Laurie’s advances. Ms. Ramai’s tone showed Jo’s disappointment that he failed to contact her while traveling through her new home, New York City.
Both Ms. Ramai and Anna Paone both delivered heartrending performances when discussing Beth’s illness. Justine D’Souza’s acceptance of Beth’s condition added to these scenes’ emotional impact.
As with previous radio shows Dragonfly presented, they broadcast authentic commercials. For this show, Thom Boyer’s smooth baritone promoted Lux Toilet Soap.
Two actors stepped in to play key roles just prior to the virtual call for “places.” Nick Endo volunteered to perform the Laurie character. Mr. Endo explained that he’d never done a cold reading under these circumstances. Even with his eleventh-hour entry into the cast, Mr. Tomb composed his own melody for a song he performed in a German accent.
Susan Roberts and Craig Mayer completed the cast. The former played Hannah and the servants; the latter portrayed Mr. Lawrence.
As Meg, Anna Paone observed, “Love and tears go very close together.” Dragonfly’s rendition of Little Women both moved and entertained the audience by showing them how much. The company posted a recording of the performance on their Facebook page.
The Dragonfly Multicultural Arts Center’s upcoming programs will appeal to a variety of audience tastes. In addition to their regular Wednesday readings, they have scheduled plays for both theatrical fans and history afficionados.
In honor of Black History Month, they will present Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop on February 24th. The latter depicts a fictitious account of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the evening before his assassination. On March 10th, they will present Tennessee Women: a story regarding Volunteer State suffragists. They last brought it to the stage in 2020 to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of women’s enfranchisement.