Twist and shout

Oliver Twist comes to Park Square Theater.

Carter Haaland


What: Oliver Twist

When: Previews beginFriday Oct. 14; official shows run from Friday, Oct. 21- Nov. 6

Where: Park Square Theater

20 W 7th Place,

St. Paul

Cost: $25-58

This weekend, Park Square Theater will begin paying homage to a timeless Dickens classic, a celebration of arguably the worldâÄôs most famous orphan. Sorry little Annie, you havenâÄôt even lasted half a century yet and your relevance is already waning. Tomorrow, previews of Oliver Twist begin featuring two University of Minnesota graduates among its cast members.

Hope Cervantes, who plays the roles of Nancy and OliverâÄôs mother, graduated from the UniversityâÄôs theater program in 2006. Though naturally an adapted screenplay, the production is firmly rooted in the text of the novel, something the UniversityâÄôs theater program prepared her for.

âÄúWhatâÄôs really great about the program is that itâÄôs very textual,âÄù she said. âÄúIt really helped prepare me to do plays like Oliver Twist by Dickens. It was really helpful to dissect the play based on the text. I felt like a detective unearthing clues through what the author gives you.âÄù

Undoubtedly a reflection of meticulous textual analysis, the play makes a conscious effort not to shy away from darker themes and subject matter present in the book.

âÄúWeâÄôre embracing the darker side of Oliver Twist so that the positives can shine that much brighter,âÄù Cervantes said. âÄúWeâÄôre really embracing it, but weâÄôre doing it in a stylized manner. WeâÄôre not showing literal blood or gore, weâÄôre showing just enough of the dark side to let the audience create in their minds exactly what happens. Which oftentimes is scarier.âÄù

Though the production has had an intentional trajectory since conception, the final product is the result of cooperative collaboration. Director Joel Sass sought to have his own vision molded by the input of those around him.

âÄúThe whole company has been great to work with,âÄù said Lindsay Marcy who plays three different characters (Rose/ Inmate/ Charlotte)and graduated from the UniversityâÄôs theater program in 2002. âÄúTheyâÄôre great collaborators. WeâÄôre definitely all working together and bringing all of our ideas to the table.âÄù

This collaborative process is one that is all too rare in the theater community. Directors arenâÄôt typically known to capitulate their vision to more menial cast members but what Sass loses in personal control, he more than gains in cast dedication and charisma.

âÄúEveryoneâÄôs opinion was valued and welcomed,âÄù Cervantes said. âÄú[Director Joel Sass] made the environment one in which you could feel free to play. ItâÄôs probably the most collaborative thing that IâÄôve done so far.âÄù