Review: Darker ‘Oliver Twist’ maintains hope

By Alice T. Carter, Trib Total Media

Photo by Suellen Fitzsimmons.

Photo by Suellen Fitzsimmons.

There’s not a snowflake or a glowing Christmas tree to be found in Pict Classic Theatre’s holiday production.

Do not go in anticipation of the colorful, sugar-coated Lionel Bart musical “Oliver!”

This staging of Charles Dickens’ 1837 novel “Oliver Twist” is the darker, more dramatic adaptation Alan Stanford, Pict’s artistic and executive director, created for the Gate Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, two decades ago.

It’s not all gloom and doom. There are moments when Oliver experiences generosity and concern — sometimes from unexpected sources.

And despite his early mistreatment, young Oliver, played with pluck and optimism by Will Sendera, a sixth-grader at Pittsburgh CAPA, remains innocent and hopeful throughout.

Johnmichael Bohach’s multipurpose scenic design and Keith A. Truax’s low-key lighting may be minimal, but they serve as a supportive backdrop for the 24 actors, some of whom play up to three parts each.

Simon Colker plays the cocky, street-wise Artful Dodger. Tony Bingham creates a realistically angry, dangerous Bill Sykes who makes everyone wary, even the kids’ gang leader Fagin, played by James FitzGerald.

David Cabot’s Mr. Bumble is amoral and unfeeling throughout, making him a clear contrast to the compassionate Mr. Brownlow, played by the solidly dependable Martin Giles.

Mark Conway Thompson and Ken Bolden create distinct, separate characters for each of their multiple roles.

Turning in the evening’s most impressive performance is Karen Baum, who plays Nancy, a former protege of Fagin’s who now is a prostitute under the marginal protection of Sykes. She commands attention and compassion with her forceful understanding of how her character and fellow criminals ended up in their London underworld.

Pict Classic Theatre’s production of “Oliver Twist” continues through Dec. 19 at the Charity Randall Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, 4301 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Admission: $13-$48; Details: 412-561-6000 or

Read Original