The stylish production was conceived, adapted, and directed by Rachel Dickstein, artistic director of Ripe Time. She was assisted by Emily Morse, who served as co-adapter and dramaturg. Performed by a cast of seven -- most playing multiple roles -- the play tells the story of Lily Bart (Paula McGonagle), a young woman living on the fringes of high society. Lily wants desperately to secure her place among the wealthy but is dragged down by increasing debts and doubts as to whether or not success in her endeavors will give her the happiness she seeks.
A chance encounter with Lawrence Selden (Andy Paris) diverts her from her avowed path at a crucial juncture. Selden, like Lily, is slightly outside the inner circle of high society, but this is mostly his own choice. While not poor, he is not so wealthy as to fit Lily's concept of a husband; in fact, she states rather plainly that he can't think she wants to marry him. Yet when Selden shows up unexpectedly at a house party given by Gus and Judy Trenor (Christopher Oden and Jill A. Samuels), Lily chooses to spend her time with him rather than with the boring but rich Percy Gryce (Grant Neale), upon whom she had set her sights.
Both Wharton's novel and Dickstein's production examine the intersection of class and gender in a complex yet thoroughly engaging manner. Lily is far more than the ambitious golddigger that others take her for. McGonagle is well cast as this aging beauty and is particularly good at conveying Lily's shifting emotions in the non-verbal sequences. Paris, with his boyishly handsome appearance, often seems just a little too young for the part of Selden, but he brings to the character a soulful, sensitive spirit.
Choreographed by Dickstein in collaboration with the ensemble, the dance and movement within the play often reflect Lily's emotional state. McGonagle's movement vocabulary is typified by outstretched arms, as if she is trying to grasp something that's always just out of her reach. Original music, composed by Katie Down, enhances the production; there is a languorous feel to the score, which is performed on piano, violin, and cello. Tyler Micoleau's lighting design makes good use of side lights and saturated ambers to create a lush effect, while Susan Zeeman Rogers' set consists primarily of several wrought iron gates that swing back and forth to divide the playing space into different configurations.