Bain Boehlke isn't scrimping on the specifics for the set of The Heiress, the Jungle Theater's latest production.
The script calls for an elegant 19th-century mansion, and the theater's founder is transforming the venue's small proscenium into just that, with no detail overlooked. The particulars stretch to items that only a portion of the audience will see and chandelier lights that have been decorated with authentic bands of copper.
Boehlke finds that the realistic set matches the intensity of the play, adapted by Ruth and Augustus Goetz from Henry James's work.
"They didn't try to dramatize the novel. This is the gestalt of Henry James. It's better than other versions of Washington Square," Boehlke says. "The second act is a gripping drama. It's rare to see a real drama."
Boehlke has enjoyed James's writing for many years. "He was a realist. You get a real feeling for the times and the life of the times. I love that," he says.
There's a tendency to treat times from the past as backward and unsophisticated, but Boehlke wants to bring the real life of the era to the stage. He believes the script (and James's book) has that honesty, and the company needs to find that.
The play centers on the relationship between a father, Dr. Austin Sloper (Jeffrey Hatcher), and his daughter, Catherine (Kate Guentzel). She is in love with Morris (John Catron, who is married in the real world to Guentzel), but her father thinks her suitor is only interested in her money.
"This play deals with the inability to forgive and how that damages lives," Boehlke says.
The cast is an all-star one, in Boehlke's words. It also includes Jennifer Blagen, Charity Jones, Wendy Lehr, Paris Hunter Paul, and Anna Sundberg.
"There is great humanity in the roles," Boehlke says about the play. That gives the cast plenty to work with from the beginning as they go through the rehearsal process.
Beyond building their characters and the action that unfolds onstage, there is this challenge: "Once something has been discovered, how do you repeat it? The production is what the audience sees. Some will spring alive in a way that is magical. The magic of theater is not remarkable set changes, but bringing living human beings on the stage," Boehlke says.
The script is an "architectural drawing for the production. Our job is to bring as much truthful behavior to the skeleton of the next. From the first reading of the play, it becomes fleshed out. That is when the spirit of the play is born," Boehlke says.
IF YOU GO
The Jungle Theater
2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
For tickets and more information, call 612.822.7063 or visit online.