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Photo courtesy of Whittier Community Theatre

Michael Ornelas as Partridge helps the audience engage in melodrama

Whittier Community Theatre’s ‘Tom Jones’ is a must-watch

March 9, 2016

Theatrical plays have an incredible advantage over film when it comes to telling their stories. Because of the close proximity and real-time performances, there is an immediacy to productions that movies will simply never have.

With that in mind, the David Rogers directed version of “Tom Jones” is a prime example of  immediacy at its finest. The play is a melodrama involving audience interactions with cheers, boos and sighs on command with cue cards.

The story of “Tom Jones” is anything but simple. Familial ties, orchestrated betrayal, slander and namesakes are constantly in flux in this comedy of errors.”

Admittedly, this is the first time I’ve seen a play in this manner. My primary concern was a feeling of forced jokes and non-organic interactions between actors and the audience. After all, there’s a reason community theater in general has a lukewarm reputation.

It’s with great pleasure that I can come to you and announce “Tom Jones” is a major success. In terms of theatrical experiences, it’s a blast from start to finish.

The story of “Tom Jones” is anything but simple. Familial ties, orchestrated betrayal, slander and namesakes are constantly in flux in this comedy of errors.

When a story requires an ensemble to tell it, it’s vital for the cast to have no weak links. A wide set of characters can provide different facets of storytelling to explore. As various personalities collide, it’s clear the actors had no issues fitting into the role. The realization that these actors know what they’re doing brings a wave of comfort and realization as professionals share their craft with the audience.

Actors portrayed their characters with impressive bravado. Jay Miramontes stars as the titular character, a lovable boy scout of a man who respects manners as much as familial honor. He’s just as likely to stand up for what he believes as much as he is to get into a rowdy fist fight. Miramontes clearly relished the opportunity and his performance appropriately stands out.

Chelsea Caracoza plays female lead Sophia Western. In the opening of the play, Caracoza’s performance felt a bit too loose but after a few scenes, she was finely tuned and bounced off the rest of the cast with ease.

The true beauty of “Tom Jones” still remains in audience captivation via interaction. As a member of the audience, you will feel engulfed in the uproarious entertainment. When the emotional turmoil occurs, the immediacy and interactions combine two separate storytelling elements into a presence that is not nearly presented enough.

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