Jane Eyre, Lifeline Theatre. Fitting Charlotte Bronte’s densely plotted Victorian classic into the abbreviated time frame of a play proved too formidable a challenge in 1991, when Christina Calvit’s adaptation of Jane Eyre premiered at Lifeline Theatre. But the rewritten text for this revival is a model of narrative efficiency, a tightly integrated, crisply paced tale whose smallest details–including a number of visual and aural motifs–serve to keep the story on track.

Director Dorothy Milne has assembled a sturdy cast who wear their characters’ potentially droll mannerisms with ease, immersing us in the play’s dramatic universe. Peter Greenberg (a veteran of Lifeline’s Georgette Heyer romance-novel canon) conveys all of Rochester’s brooding intensity and adds a subtle humor, steering well clear of cliche. His imposing presence enhances Jenifer Tyler Key’s quietly intense interpretation of Jane, and both performances are set off to superb advantage by the sharply etched characterizations of the production’s seven other actors.

With the help of a technical team whose contributions amplify without ever interrupting the action, the Lifeline company forges a gripping romantic yarn. Women and men alike were seen hauling out their hankies on opening night, but this tearjerker had earned every drop.

–Mary Shen Barnidge