Deborah Yaffe

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The Watsons, reborn

By Deborah Yaffe, Jul 6 2020 01:00PM

Among the Janeite casualties of pandemic lockdown was the planned West End production of The Watsons, Laura Wade’s much-praised adaptation of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel. The show earned great reviews during runs at a provincial British theater in 2018 and a small London venue last fall, and its transfer to the British equivalent of Broadway had been set for May through September of this year.


Alas.


But! Now comes word that a serialized, professional, Zoom-enabled reading of the play will stream on Facebook Live over the next four Wednesdays – July 8, 15, 22, and 29, at 7 pm (Eastern). Each evening’s production will remain available online for four days afterwards.


The reading – produced by The Nora, a feminist initiative of the Central Square Theater in Cambridge, MA -- is free, but attendees must RSVP, and the signup includes a solicitation for donations. Proceeds will benefit the artists and The Welcome Project, an immigrants’ support organization based in a nearby community.


Wade’s version of The Watsons reportedly owes as much to Pirandello as to Austen, with the characters rebelling against the unfinished nature of their story and taking matters into their own hands. I was sad to miss it in England and hopeful it might arrive on these shores. This isn’t quite the American version I’d imagined, but it sounds well worth catching.


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