Down with Dickens? Get thee to Twist!

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By Shawne Fagan

If the rock music Twist proves anything, it’s that pre-millennial tension is alive and well.

Set in post-civil war America, 20 years in the future, Twist paints a bleak picture of a debauched society wrought with unsavory characters and little hope.

Based loosely on the Charles Dickens classic Oliver Twist, the tale is retold from the perspective of Emily Twist (Dena Chiarcossi), an escaped orphan in search of her mother.

Performed by the young actors performance Troupe the talented cast can’t save Johnathon Hoskins’ script from becoming another in a series of bloated statements about the doom facing our society as the end of the century approaches.

The characters in Twist evolve into nothing more than one-dimensional stereotypes, juvenile characters who make the plot seem even more ridiculous and unbelievable.

Is anyone supposed to take a character named Jack the Cat seriously?

Most offensive are the stereotyped portrayals of the prostitutes, heroin addicts and criminals which infiltrate Emily’s world. Written from a sanitized, middle-class morality viewpoint, Twist comes off more like Little Orphan Annie out for a night on the town after watching Trainspotting. More silly than scary.

The youthful cast does its best to bring Twist to life, especially Eleonara Barna as Jazz, the knife-wielding prostitute, Monika Schurmann as Nancy and Dena Chiarcossi in the title role.

Do yourself a favor – if you’re looking to experience the hard-knock life of an orphan alone in the world, read the original and skip the sappy remake. Dickens would insist.

Twist plays at the Bickford Centre until January 31.

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