Run from the nun in Villette

Mon. February 20, 2023 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

Lookingglass Theatre held a world premiere on February 18, 2023, with Villette, a play based on the Charlotte Bronte novel of the same name. The update for modern audiences from the 1853 book came with challenges for the creators of the production with this labor of love.

The overall story is very much the same. Lucy Snowe moves from England to a fictional town called Villette to teach children without speaking French. She eventually learns the language and has many adventures as she adjusts to a new life full of colorful characters.

There are at least two love stories within Villette with one being completely unnecessary, but the author of Jane Eyre knows how to roll out a romance tale and this is another example of Bronte's unforgettable legacy.

Lucy Snowe is portrayed by Mi Kang who serves as both the narrator and main protagonist. M. Paul Emmanuel is deftly depicted by the talented Debo Balogun when he could have been a forgettable love interest.

Another standout is Mo Shipley as the curmudgeon Ginevra Fanshawe adding some much-needed humor to the production.

There are more characters in the original work, but this cast is set at six. The Lookingglass Theatre troupe uses its improvisational roots with props representing people at one point.

Mara Blumenfield's costumes are magnificent and Yu Shibagaki's sliding set works like a charm. A haunted nun and creepy masks may raise the fear factor for younger viewers, but it adds to holding the attention of adults.

Lookingglass is currently celebrating 35 years of work and is known for having a playful approach. Their usual tricks of acrobats or puppets don't pop up in this project, although there is a small trapdoor moment in the second act. Without some of the troupe's usual stunts to rely on, they still do well thanks to strong performances and skilled execution of the source material. It's a two-and-a-half-hour tale told by a talented team inside the iconic space of 821 North Michigan Avenue.

Take a trip to Villette from now until April 23, 2023 with tickets at