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THEATER BEAT

Life of 'Bronte' Is a Survivor's Story

September 26, 1997|JANA J. MONJI

Despite the fame that the novel "Jane Eyre" brought Charlotte Bronte, she was far from happy in the early summer of 1849. Her siblings were dead, and she was "a lonely woman and likely to remain so" as she cared for her infirm father in the Yorkshire village of Hayworth, "a perfect misanthrope's heaven."

William Luce's "Bronte," a one-woman portrait of Charlotte, isn't about a Harlequin romance heroine, but a gruff spinster who still can flutter with girlish hopes for love despite her disappointments. In this production at Tamarind Theatre, Helen Wilson portrays Charlotte as a bit petty, more than a little common and haunted by memories of her siblings.

Charles Nelson Reilly guides Wilson into a no-nonsense portrayal that percolates with an intelligence bitterly repressed by class, by social expectations and gender. Wilson's Charlotte paces and charges into wild imaginings that hint at the restless talents and frustrations of the talented threesome: Charlotte, Anne and Emily. Her impersonations of various characters in her narration are well-delineated, simultaneously revealing Charlotte's impressions as well.

* "Bronte," Tamarind Theatre, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hollywood. Mondays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Ends Oct. 15. (888) 566-8499. Running time: 2 hours.

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