Jocelyn Maher (foreground) and Andre Nelson, in Book-It Repertory Theatre’s production of “She’s Come Undone.” Photo by Alan Alabastro

Jocelyn Maher (foreground) and Andre Nelson, in Book-It Repertory Theatre’s production of “She’s Come Undone.” Photo by Alan Alabastro

Book-It Repertory Theatre once again boldly goes where no [wo]man has gone before with its world premiere of director/adapter Kelly Kitchens’ engrossing scripting of Wally Lamb’s “She’s Come Undone.” Kitchens’ longtime passion for the novel inspired her to lobby Book-It for the opportunity to adapt it.

A New York Times bestseller and Oprah Book Club Selection, “She’s Come Undone” follows sensitive but spirited heroine Dolores Price (stunningly portrayed by recent University of Washington graduate Jocelyn Maher) from age 4 to 40 as she overcomes family dysfunction, rape, mental disease, obesity and betrayal. Kitchens’ more than 2 1/2-hour stage version of the 400-plus- page novel faithfully covers the main plot points without glossing over the highly charged emotional content.

Onstage depictions of rape and cruelty may not be everyone’s cup of tea — as evidenced by some attrition at intermission on opening night — but Dolores’ gripping story is difficult for most to let go. Just prior to the opening of the second act, an audience member sitting behind me whispered to her companion, “I hope something good is going to happen for her.” “Me, too,” her friend replied. It’s not too much of a plot spoiler to say it does. 

Nor is all doom and gloom: Humor is infused throughout, whether due to Dolores’ feisty interjections or comic characters such as Dolores’ salty polka-queen neighbor (Susanna Burney).

Book-It’s signature style that combines dialogue with spoken-aloud narrative gives Maher the difficult task of portraying the complex Dolores Price not only at multiple ages but filtering the narrative voice of Dolores as an adult. Maher is more than equal to the challenge. Her multi-layered and intelligent portrayal stands out among the talented cast, most of whom slip in and out of multiple roles with ease. 

Especial kudos goes to the woman of 1,000 faces, Betsy Schwartz, who brings equal conviction and particularity to her primary role as Dolores’ fragile mother, Bernice, and to any number of smaller parts.

Also distinguishing a number of smaller roles is Allie Pratt, as childhood friend Jeanette and uptight college roommate Kippy. Other standout performances include John Bianchi as sweet Mr. Pucci, Dolores’ guidance counselor and only friend during her high school years; Trevor Marston as the truly creepy Jack; and David Anthony Lewis as Thayer, Dolores’ match in directness.

Andrea Bryn Bush’s minimal set design incorporates the worn, wooden textures of the piers and pilings of Dolores’ beloved eastern shore, transformed into multiple settings by Robert Aguilar’s lighting design. 

Costumes by Chelsea Cook and sound design by Dustin Morache place us firmly in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s settings of the story.

“She’s Come Undone” plays at Book-It Repertory Theatre at the Seattle Center through Oct. 13. For more information, visit www.book-it.org.

To comment on this review, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.