As surely as it is known that “it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” It is also a universal truth that PRIDE AND PREJUDICE will be portrayed with the stiff formality of prior Austen adaptations – it’s the law. Thankfully, the Kate Hamill adaption now playing at the Cygnet Theatre through June 16th takes all of the starch out of the proceedings and adds in a bit of zany fun instead.
This is not a P&P for the purists. If the idea of playing this story anything but ramrod straight gives you the vapors then this may not be the show for you. This talented comedic cast takes the reins and runs, with some additional interjections with modern music and dance to keep the audience guessing.
No worries, the same characters and story are all there. Elizabeth (Jacque Wilke) is still set against marriage, while her lovely and mild older sister Jane (Joy Yvonne Jones) has caught both the eye and the heart of the wealthy and eligible bachelor Mr. Bingley (Kevin Hafso-Koppman). It’s Bingley’s friend Darcy (Steven Lone) who will ultimately win Lizzie’s heart, but they both have to get over themselves a bit before that can happen.
Mrs. Bennet (Shana Wride) is the always semi-hysterical mother versus her more logical and calm husband (Adrian Alita). They each disagree on goals for their girls, Jane, Elizabeth, Lydia (Michelle Marie Trester), and Mary (also Hafso-Koppman).
Before everything can be wrapped up in a happy ending, there are annoying cousins, snobby society matrons, rakes in military uniforms, and many miscommunications. Of course there’s all that pride and prejudice the main characters have that need to be addressed as well.
Wilke’s Elizabeth is no wilting flower who stands up to Lone’s Darcy, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind to him, nor is she won over by typical society wealth and status symbols. Wilke tempers Elizabeth’s tart tongue with her obvious love for her family, though they may drive her mad at times. As Darcy, Lone succeeds in keeping him charming as well as the ultimate straight man to all of the characters around him running around expressing their emotions and opinions all of the time.
Wride and Trester are truly a comedic, dynamic duo, bringing both the characters of Mrs. Bennet and Lydia to life not only with such humor, but manage to add depths to the characters that usually are not there. This might very well be the first time I’ve found these characters endearing in their insane and overdramatic ways.
The ensemble plays many roles, and the changes happen fast and furiously (mostly on stage) adding to the heightened pace and energy of the comedy. Jake Millgard covers three roles including the pretentious preacher Collins, and the dastardly Wickam; but honestly won my heart as the judgmental and pretentious Caroline Bingley. Trester brings the daunting Lady Catherine to life, while Jones channels her equally judgey daughter Anne, and Alita makes a sweet Charlotte (beard and all). Hafso-Koppman brings a whirlwind of energy and madness to Mary, the sister the family keeps trying to forget as they all deal with their problems.
Directed by Rob Lufty the comedy moves quickly and with intensity. Choreography by Michael Mizerany to songs from Madonna, The Pointer Sisters, and Cyndi Lauper to name a few, keep everything fun and mix the older with the more modern. The set by Sean Fanning allows for all of the quick changes, zany entrances and exits, and madcap mischief.
Don’t get me wrong, the 8 hour BBC adaption that introduced the world to Colin Firth as the Darcy to measure all future Darcy’s against is still a classic in my opinion. However, it’s nice to see the aura of pomp and primness that usually surrounds this piece being pierced and allowing the entertaining social criticism shine through as a comedy.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is playing at the Cygnet Theatre through June 16th in Old Town. For performance times and tickets please go to www.cygnettheatre.com