Wuthering Heights, Emily Bront's dreary and tragic romance, seems an appropriate vehicle to usher in this wintery, holiday month—there's just something about damned love affairs and lots of rain that would probably appeal to those cynics who hate the Yuletide. Like me. And yet the Insurgo Theater Movement's production of this classic novel, while a sincerely good effort, still falls short of evoking the truly gut-wrenching, pathetic nature of its literature.
But it's probably not their fault. Blame Freud. Or your age. But watching orphan gypsy Heathcliff engage in sadomasochistic, obsessive-compulsive behavior while trying to possess Cathy, his adoptive sister, is hard fare to swallow in this age of Dr. Phil and Oprah. If we were 10, we would have been completely taken in. Unfortunately, the psychoses are no longer a turn-on. Heathcliff is a nut—not a sexy, love-struck nut, but a scary, needs-a-straitjacket nut. That would be all good, except the whole point of the story is to engage us in a torrid, passionate relationship that should make us weep. Instead, it made us want to leave.
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Is it the times, or is it the production? Bringing a 19th-century story that relies so heavily on verbalizing internal trauma—as well as exceptional visual detail—to the stage is a tough hurdle for low-budget theater. And the fewer scenes and sets you have, the more exceptional your actors must be; only a few of them are.
Regardless of the lack of scenery and the compaction of scenes and dialogue (and our personal baggage), the cast break their asses trying to make it work. Jonathan Markanday (Heathcliff) is exceptionally good, which makes trying to get into the spirit of the thing easier. Jill Cary Martin (Nelly) and Johnna Adams (Cathy Linton) also make this very long trek through psychoanalysis more rewarding. And yet we never liked anyone in this story, and when they all died, we were glad. We don't think it's supposed to be that way, but with the Bront sisters—who could have probably used a little Dr. Phil—you never really like anyone in their stories. So God bless Insurgo for giving it a go. Hell, at least it's not A Christmas Carol.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS AT THE INSURGO THEATER MOVEMENT, 4883 E. LA PALMA AVE., STE. 506, ANAHEIM, (714) 517-7798;
WWW.INSURGOTHEATER.COM. FRI.-SAT., 8 P.M.; SUN., 2 P.M. THROUGH DEC. 19. $15-$18.