The Girl in the Kitchen Sink

Terry Teachout
The Wall Street Journal

Doctors have a saying: "The dose makes the poison." If you're a playwright, charm works the same way. It's an indispensable part of the dramatic pharmacopoeia, but put in a pinch too much and a show can cloy. That doesn't happen in Dodie Smith's "I Capture the Castle," which is being performed for the first time on the East Coast by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Not only does Ms. Smith's stage version of her fizzy 1948 novel about a clever young woman teetering on the brink of adulthood get the dosage right, but it has been impeccably directed by Cameron Watson and is being performed on a handsome set by an ideal cast. The word "irresistible" is rarely true, but I don't see how anyone not descended from Scrooge McDuck could fail to fall for "I Capture the Castle."

Ms. Smith, who died in 1990, was a British novelist and playwright who is best known for having written the book on which Walt Disney's "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" was based. While none of her plays went over big on Broadway, the original version of "I Capture the Castle" has become something of a cult favorite, winning fans as varied as J.K. Rowling and Donald E. Westlake. The 1954 stage adaptation, however, is all but unknown, and until now had received only a single American production four years ago in Los Angeles. Read more.

A beautiful 'Castle': Actors at the top of their game in Shakespeare Theatre's latest effort

William Westhoven
The Daily Record

Not all so-called classics are familiar to all audiences. Most theater enthusiasts in the United States are unfamiliar with "I Capture the Castle.'' Too bad for most of them, but in Madison, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is gifting us this holiday with a splendid introduction.

Certainly, the crowd that unwrapped Saturday night's premiere was delighted with this generous offering. Based on Dodie Smith's 1948 novel beloved in England but largely unknown here the stage adaptation did not premiere in the U.S. until 2006. That production in Los Angeles was directed by Cameron Watson, who appeared in the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's 1997 production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream'' before rising as a director on the West Coast.

Watson not only brought "Castle'' back to his old company, he brought his leading lady as well. Rebecca Mozo is yet another welcome holiday gift, an enchanting actress who suits Smith's warm, subtly humorous tale. Read more.

'I Capture the Castle' review: Play offers plenty of laughs at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

Peter Filichia
The Star Ledger

Can there be a funny soap opera?

Theres certainly one at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. I Capture the Castle has Stephen Colley in love with Cassandra Mortmain, whos in love with Simon Cotton, whos in love with Rose Mortmain, a gold-digger whos in love with well, you get the point.

Add in a father who may be mentally ill and an older woman whos got her eye on a much younger man, and you have some young and restless people.

But Dodie Smiths 1954 play has a quirky sense of humor unknown to daytime dramas. Says Cassandra, the young miss at the center of the play, I know the facts of life and I dont think much of them. That quip received one of many big laughs from the Madison first-nighters.
Read more.

I Capture the Castle

Michael Sommers

There's nary a sprig of mistletoe in sight, but Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey decks its halls nicely with a warmhearted winner for the holidays with Dodie Smith's "I Capture the Castle." Best known for her "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" story, the British writer also crafted several trans-Atlantic stage hits of the 1930s. Why Smith's own adaptation of her 1948 novel ran only briefly in the West End in 1954 is a mystery, since director Cameron Watson's production -- billed as the play's East Coast premiere -- reveals a gentle charmer with special appeal to the family crowd.

Narrated by 17-year-old Cassandra as she scribbles in her journal -- "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink" is her first entry -- Smith's comedy captures eight eventful months amid the bohemian Mortmain clan, who cheerfully reside in a dilapidated English castle in 1935.

Impoverished by their brilliant dad's decade-long writer's block, Cassandra and elder sister Rose share dreams of romance that come true, with seriocomic complications along the way, when two handsome, rich American brothers arrive in the neighborhood. (Novel was filmed by director Tim Fywell with Bill Nighy as the father in 2003.) Smith treats her episodic story in rich, often humorous detail, neatly melding fleeting scenes via Cassandra's amusing narration. While the second act becomes crowded with developments, Smith's whimsical but natural dialogue remains enjoyable, and her 14 characters are distinctive folk. Read more.

'I Capture the Castle' The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey mounts the second American production of Dodie Smiths play

Bob Brown

IMAGINE Jane Austen transported into 20th-century England and you have an inkling of Dodie Smith's novel I Capture the Castle (1948). Embraced by Britons (it was voted #82 on the BBC's 2003 list of "The Nation's Best-loved Books"), it's Austen-esque with a touch of Dickens and D.H. Lawrence. Adapted for the stage by Smith, the play has the charm of its period a light comic touch with endearingly oddball characters that would be well suited to a BBC miniseries or a film (actually, there was one made in 2003).

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, one of the finer ensembles in the region, is mounting the second American production of this play, following its Los Angeles debut in 2004. Cameron Watson, who directed that production, is back to direct the work here. He is convinced, he wrote in a directors note, "that it can enjoy the same popularity here as it has in Great Britain, if only people could see it." Read more.

Shakespeare Theater in Madison draws family audiences during holiday season, with I Capture the Castle

Liz Keill
Independent Press

MADISON "I Capture the Castle" tells the shimmering, other worldly tale of Cassandra Mortmain as she writes in her journal about her observations of life, her first hints of falling in love and her strange and bizarre experience growing up in a for-real castle in England.

The book by Dodie Smith has long been popular in England, but is hard to come by here. Smith imagined it as a play, but turned it into a novel instead. The author is probably better known in this country, for "One Hundred and One Dalmatians."

In "I Capture the Castle," Cassandra, her older sister Rose and younger brother Thomas, played by Daniel Marconi, live with their father, Thomas, a famous novelist and their step-mother, Topaz, a free artistic spirit.

But theyre living a hard-scrabble life since Thomas Mortmain, played by Matt Bradford Sullivan, has lost interest in writing. Sullivan has a suitably distracted air as the writer.

As luck would have it, two handsome young men appear from America. The brothers, Simon and Neil Cotton, have inherited the estate. This is a perfect opportunity for Rose, in particular, to snag a husband. It all gets complicated when the Fox-Cottons descend and treat the family to the good life in London. The plot is convoluted and it definitely helps to have read the novel first. Read more.

I Capture the CastleCharms Its Way Into Our Hearts

Bob Rendell

I Capture the Castle, the literate and immensely charming British romantic comedy now on stage at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, whisks us back to 1935 and the wreck of an old house grafted onto the ruins of Godsend Castle in Sussex, England. For it is here that author Dodie Smith set both her 1948 coming of age novel and its 1952 stage adaptation that is now on hand. Interestingly, the English writer was working as a screenwriter at Paramount Pictures (she co-authored the screenplay for the classic film The Uninvited, but little of her output at Paramount made it to the silver screen).

Spanning a bracing and turbulent six months in the lives of an eccentric, down at the heels, literary English family, I Capture the Castle, a "modern" update and variation on such 19th century romantic novels as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, proves to be a worthy successor to the classics whose charm, enchantment and literary sensibility it delightfully emulates. Read more.

I Capture the Castle

Gwen Orel

Dodie Smith may be best known, if at all, as the author of the novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, but I Capture the Castle, now at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, proves she is also a playwright who can capture a lot of hearts.

The play -- which Smith adapted from her own 1948 novel -- follows two sisters who are living in a decrepit old castle in the English countryside as they fall in love and begin having a life of their own. Cassandra (Rebecca Mezo) is a budding author, and some of the play consists of her reading from her journal -- a touch that makes the play feel very modern. Her sister Rose (Nisi Sturgis) is beautiful and realistic; she's particularly frightened at the level of their poverty since their eccentric father, celebrated author James Mortmain (Matt Bradford Sullivan) has stopped writing. Their stepmother Topaz (Erika Rolfsrud), a former artist's model, is an eccentric sort who likes to "commune with nature" in the nude. Read more.

Review: I Capture the Castle is a coming-of-age charmer

Rick Busciglio
Northern New Jersey Theater Examiner

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is closing its 2010 Season with the American East Coast and regional premiere of British author Dodie Smiths I Capture The Castle, a stage adaption of her 1948 popular coming-of-age novel. Little known here in the States, the book is quite popular in the U.K., in fact, in 2003, the British public voted I Capture The Castle one of the nations 100 best-loved novels as part of the BBCs The Big Read. The play is a rarity.... a wonderful, charming play for a family audience. This handsome production is directed by Cameron Watson, who premiered I Capture the Castle to American audiences in Los Angeles.

I Capture The Castle is set in the year 1935. The location is a ruined castle in Suffolk, England, inhabited by a very dysfunctional family; the once famous author James Mortmain, now penniless after 10 years of writer's-block., his two daughters, Rose and Cassandra, on the threshold of adulthood, one young son, Thomas, their Bohemian, former model, step-mother Topaz, a nudist and no help at all, and Stephen Colley, all-around handyman and the son of a former maid. Read more.


'I Capture the Castle' preview: Rebecca Mozo reprises role in British drama

Peter Filichia
The Star Ledger

Actresses are used to getting compliments. Nice performance, great dress, lovely hair.

But Rebecca Mozo recently received the best type of compliment. It happened four years after she and 13 other performers had appeared in I Capture the Castle in Los Angeles. When director Cameron Watson had an offer to restage the play at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, he asked only one person to come to Madison and repeat a role: Rebecca Mozo. Read more.

Morris Stage: Shakespeare Theatre ends season with touching show about family

William Westhoven
The Daily Record

On paper, "I Capture the Castle'' seems like an odd choice for the holidays and the final season production at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

Based on the 1940s novel by Dodie Smith, best-known for "The Hundred and One Dalmatians,'' this tale of an eccentric and down-on-its-luck British family in the 1930s is, first and foremost, a coming-of-age story.

Bonnie Monte's company, though, has a way with turning relatively obscure stories, such as Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales,'' into holiday favorites. Read more.