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Broadway World Review: Kate Hamill's THE SCARLET LETTER at Two River Theater Captivates with the Timeless Theme of Womanly Strength

“The only sin was in the shame.” By Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter

Two River Theater is presenting the stunning world premiere of The Scarlet Letter skillfully reimagined by Kate Hamill, the renowned contemporary American playwright. The show is expertly directed Shelley Butler and features a stellar cast. Performances will run through Sunday, February 25 in the Joan and Robert M. Rechnitz Theater. See this meaningful jewel of a production.

The Scarlet Letter is based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s masterwork by the same name that was published in 1850.  The story is set in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1640’s when puritanical standards guided people’s lives. In the community, a young woman, Hester Prynne has engaged in an adulterous relationship with the much admired pastor, Reverend Dimmesdale that resulted in the birth of her daughter, Pearl.  Hester refuses to reveal the identity of Pearl’s father to the community.   She stoically accepts both her punishments and the distain of the town’s residents while striving to be a good mother to Pearl.  Hester’s husband, Chillingsworth, who was thought to have perished in a shipwreck, suddenly appears.  He is deeply resentful of his wife’s  infidelity and executes a furtive revenge against Dimmesdale.  Hester Prynne’s bravery in the face of injustice and people’s scorn is a testament to the enduring strength of women.

The cast’s performances capture the rich story and the essence of their characters as they master Kate Hamill’s finely written dialogue. The company includes Amelia Pedlow as Hester Prynne; Keshav Moodliar as Dimmesdale; Kevin Isola as Chillingsworth; Triney Sandoval as Governor Hibbins; Mary Bacon as the Governor’s wife, Goody Hibbins; and Nikki Calonge as the puppet child, Pearl. It is clever puppetry that successfully depicts Pearl as an impish youth.

Scenes that will long be remembered are Chillingsworth surprising Hester with his sudden presence; Hester and Pearl going to the Governor Hibbins’ home; Goody Hibbins bemoaning having Hester in the community; Dimmesdale preaching to his flock about salvation; Goody Hibbins coming to Dimmesdale for his council; Hester removing the scarlet letter from her dress to the displeasure of Pearl; Chillingsworth coaxing Dimmesdale to drink an elixir; Pearl rejecting Dimmesdale’s show of affection; Hester planning with Dimmesdale to voyage to Europe; and Hester, Pearl and Dimmesdale publicly uniting.

The creative team has done a top job of bringing the 17th century to life on the Red Bank Stage.  They include scenic design by Takeshi Kata; costume design by Sara Ryung Clement; lighting design by Philip Rosenberg; sound design and composition by Kate Marvin; puppet design by James Ortiz; puppetry by Will Gallacher; hair and make-up design by Roxanne De Luna; fight direction and intimacy by Rocío Mendez and Alex Might. The Stage Manager is Alex Murphy; the Assistant Stage Manager is Kassi Wilson and  casting is by Caparelliotis Casting/David Caparelliotis and Joseph Gery.

We applaud Two River Theater’s Artistic Director, Justin Waldman and Managing Director, Nora DeVeau-Rosen for presenting the world premiere of The Scarlet Letter. This is a captivating show that is bound to go far.

Can’t make it to the theater? For the first time ever, Two River Theater will partner with nonprofit The League of Live Stream Theater to present the world premiere of Kate Hamill’s The Scarlet Letter via live stream. The live stream performances will reach global audiences beginning Friday, February 16 and include all evening and matinee performances through Sunday, February 18, 2024.  Live stream tickets are $49 including the $9 service fee.  Performances are in Eastern Standard Time. You can purchase them HERE.

The Scarlet Letter runs for 90 minutes with no intermission.  For tickets, please visit and call 732.345.1400. The Theater is located at 21 Bridge Street, Red Bank, NJ 07701.  It has plenty of free parking and dining options nearby.

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson