ORDINARILY a performance reviewer looks for a compelling lead to catch and hold the reader. It turned out in this case that the lead was a farewell. The talented, admired and, indeed, much loved Gracie Poletti is ending her long and successful time at Carmel High School’s theater department for new opportunities in Southern California.
That made the short two-day run of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women all the more bittersweet. Staged at Carmel’s outdoor Forest Theater Friday and Saturday under perfect weather, attended by a cautious number of patrons, Poletti’s well-paced and polished cast resulted in a wholly satisfying account of this American treasure.
Poletti brought Alcott’s characters and their individual motives into crystal clarity. In particular, Cassie Gorman, as the spirited Jo, was riveting, her sisters captivating. Hayley Armstrong, as Amy, was perfectly selfish, while Savannah Allen, as Meg, was heart-warming. Maria Botha, as Beth, was totally sympathetic especially in her poignant and believable scene with Jo. There were no weak links in this nuanced ensemble performance. The suitors (Michael Lakind and John Campo), both handsome and sincere, were admirable gentlemen.
CHS now faces the daunting task of replacing the treasured Ms Poletti as she ends her tenure as an exceptional teacher and mentor. It is rare to find a teacher who trusts her students as she does and who, in return, receives the kinds of dedicated performances that local audiences have shared year after year. Little Women was a wonderful and meaningful parting gift, a perfect evening to be long remembered.