“One would have to have a heart of stone,” Oscar Wilde tells us, “to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.” Lookingglass adaptor Raymond Fox and his collaborators Laura Eason and Heidi Stillman deserve some plaudits, then, for the simple feat of making Nell’s death moving again, stripped of the bathos of one of Dickens’s weaker moments. Fox and his friends have set themselves a thankless task on the whole. The RSC required eight hours for their “Nicholas Nickleby.” While the adaptors manage to pack an impressive percentage of the novel’s plot into 150 minutes, this “Curiosity Shop” can’t help but feel breathless and undernourished in spots, often more a reminder of the vastness of Dickens’ world than a full-fledged evocation. Lookingglass’s ace in the hole in this production is the altogether brilliant performance of Thomas J. Cox as the villainous Quilp. Demonically smoking and crookedly ambling his way around the stage, Cox captures the mixture of animal drive and Satanic pride that makes Quilp, like all Dickens villains, the recognizable progeny of Shakespeare and Milton. Cox is backed by an astute supporting cast; Lawrence E. DiStasi’s amiably soused Dick Swiveller, Lisa Tejero’s vicious Sally Brass and Fox’s philanthropic Single Gentleman are all deftly rendered and easily recognizable Dickensian types. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.