(Daniel M. Gold's article appeared in the New York Times, 2/17.) 

Dickens Shows the Brutality of a Gentle Age

“Hard Times” does not make many lists of Charles Dickens’s best novels — it’s too preachy, too harsh in its vision of a society that trades joy or individuality for materialism and mass production. Yet, as the excellent Pearl Theater Company production that opened at City Center on Sunday night shows, those very qualities make it well suited to the stage. 

Dickens draped his tale of Coketown, a fictional Victorian factory city, with contempt for a wide range of societal ills: rampant industrialization and pollution, worker exploitation and widening income gaps, even England’s rigid divorce laws. In an adaptation that is remarkable for how true it remains to the book, Stephen Jeffreys has pared away much of the commentary, letting the critique emerge in the actions and attitudes of characters as memorable as any in the Dickens pantheon.

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