top of page

Dobama Theatre’s ‘Little Women’ lightly touches on a more gentile time

Ask any woman which character she best relates to in Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” and you will get a firm answer...and possibly numerous answers. The names of the four sisters: Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth have been etched into the world’s female psyches ever since the novel was first published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. It is an endearing story of four sisters growing up during the Civil War. Their father has been sent off to fight and they spend their days in the attic making up stories of fairies, witches and brave heroes. When not otherwise engaged they read a self published imaginary newspaper (The Pickwick Portfolio) that is inhabited with their own poems and stories.

Meg is the oldest who only dreams of finding a good husband and settling down to a quiet domestic life with children of her own. Brash Jo, the tom-boy busies herself with writing the fantasy stories that they act out. She dreams of being an author. Beth is the musical talent of the family but the most physically frail. Lastly, there is Amy who is touched with the artist skill but precocious. Their highly relatable life together is one of love, conflict, sharing, encouragement and loss...or in a word...typical sisters.

While father is away fighting in the Civil War, the sisters entertain each other while pursuing their individual talents. Jo (Theo Allyn) has compiled a book that she hopes to have published. Meg (Mariah Burks) is the domestic, keeping everything tidy. Beth (Natalie Green) plays the piano in order to entertain the family and Amy (Amaya Kiyomi) is the often left behind little sister. The family lives in what is described as “genteel poverty”. It is because of this that the two oldest girls work. Meg tutors a family of four children while Jo assists her aged great aunt March. Beth stays at home to do housework and Amy is still in school but dreams of a life of elegance and fine society.

One day, the girls spot a newcomer moving into the house next to theirs. It is Laurie who has moved in with his grandfather. Jo and Amy are smitten and a quiet competition ensues but Laurie seems to be more attracted to Jo. A further division comes between the two sisters when Jo and Meg get invited to the theater, leaving their youngest sibling at home. In retaliation, Amy burns Jo’s book causing great grief for Jo.

The sisters are forced to unite when Amy falls through the ice after following Jo and Laurie who are out ice skating together. Later while volunteering to help a poorer family Beth contracts scarlet fever. Although she eventually recovers, her heart is affected.

The play (taken from the books) began in Ann Arbor, Michigan with a reading at the PennySeats Theatre. It made the rounds of several venues before being performed in the First Folio Theatre in Oak Brook, Illinois. As of yet it has not made its way Broadway either on or off.

As for the Dobama treatment of the show itself, it is directed by Melissa T. Crum and runs in the neighborhood of two-hours which includes a fifteen minute intermission. The stage set is homey and comfortable but there seems to be a bit of large furniture moving throughout the play that is distracting. The scene is softly lit by Josee M. Coyle and there are period musical selections added by Angie Hayes.

As for the cast, the first thing you will notice that it has been color-blind-cast as well as gender blind. The four actresses play all of the male parts as well. I would have preferred the hiring of male actors to play those roles in order to follow a more realistic approach.

Theo Allyn is the strength of this play with her boisterous rendition of Jo. Mariah Burks as Meg brings a “married, quiet life, children” feel to the role even before she gets married. Natalie Green as Laurie and Beth has the perfect balance of vulnerability for the role without overplaying the part. In the end she dies well. Amaya Kiyomi is well cast as the spoiled youngest (aren't they all?) whose dreams threaten the balance of the family. Amaya also portrays Mr. Brooks (John) who eventually marries Meg.

While not perfect, this show takes us back to a gentler but to some degree highly sacrinated time where drama held sway over substance. It is a pleasant paint by number of a simple by-gone era. Like a hot cup of tea next to a fire on a winter’s eve it warms the soul and creates a feeling of well being. Savor the moment.

The Dobama production of “Little Women” will be on stage in the Dobama Theatre (2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio) through December 31, 2023. For more information and tickets go to or call (216) 932-3396.


  • Facebook B&W
  • Twitter B&W
Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

bottom of page