It's not a happy story, and nor is it brief: Singley's adaptation is commendably thorough and sensitive, but it's also on the long side, with frequent scene shifts sometimes handled more gracefully than others. Another occasional difficulty lies in characters' accents, which are sometimes inconsistent, and one or two staging choices are a little jarring, such as a rather lurid red gel accompanying Tess's last fateful encounter with Alec.
But overall, Dead Wessex's Tess is a solid and spirited production, with a radiant Tess and an acute sensibility for the relevance of her fate. The most dangerous attitude that damns her — and damns our current culture wars — might well be Angel's, as with the best intentions he cleaves to his imaginary ideals of a woman, rather than her contingency-riddled human reality.
Tess of the d'Urbervilles | by Thomas Hardy | Adapted by April Singley | Directed by Harlan Baker | Produced by Dead Wessex Fair Productions | at Lucid Stage, in Portland | through September 23 | 207.899.3993
, Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Lardie, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, More