In this Austen adaptation, it's Emma Woodhouse’s difficult aspects that actress Sylvie Davidson seems a bit hesitant to explore. Emma’s boundless self-confidence leads her to treat everyone’s social lives as chess pieces in a grand game, and Austen makes comedy out of her chronic meddling. Only later, when Emma’s game-playing turns around to bite her in the bustled butt, though, does Davidson show how wrenching and mortifying this moral awakening is for her. The men in the cast are perfect. First among them is Dylan Chalfy as Mr. Knightley, family friend to the Woodhouses—impeccable in behavior, sober in judgment, the moral counterweight to Emma and her impetuous ilk. Marcus Goodwin directs the rich, artful adaptation by Rachel Atkins. Laura Ferri’s choreography for the ball scenes is not only beautiful, and beautifully realized, but helps us understand just why social dancing was so important in Austen’s world. The figures are just intricate enough to make proper execution a noteworthy accomplishment, conferring status, but not so intricate the dancers can’t chat, flirt, and gossip. GAVIN BORCHERT [See the full review.] 7:30 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Nov. 22.

First Thursday-Saturday of every month, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Oct. 1. Continues through Nov. 22, 2009

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