I have so many good things to say about Book-It Repertory Theatre’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen that there is absolutely no way I can cram them all into this review. The short version: Go see it!
This production has something for everyone. Bookworms will appreciate how adapter and director Marcus Goodwin’s script uses the original text to narrate transitions, introductions, and explanations. Art geeks will appreciate the fantastic stage, complete with calligraphic writing on the floor and set pieces, by scenic designer Greg Carter. Music-lovers can note the traditional dances – curated by sound designer Jen Raynak and usually played on an imaginary piano by one character or another – and history nerds will love the period costumes by Jocelyne Fowler. Oh, and for all you thespians, the acting is superb, from the wicked Wickham (Connor Toms) to the socially awkward Darcy (Richard Nguyen Sloniker), with the unfortunate manners of Mrs. Bennett (Kimberly King) and Mr. Collins (John Bianchi) adding to the comedy.
But isn’t Jane Austen one of those really dead classic writers that only snobs pretend to like? Isn’t it basically a romantic comedy with old-fashioned language? Isn’t it boring?
The humor that may be difficult to follow while reading Pride and Prejudice, or other classics published centuries ago, shines through in the dialogue of this show. While the stakes and circumstances of, for example, one sister’s decision to elope with a man may be a little hard to grasp today, it’s easy to understand the girls’ outrage at being treated like “objects” by a man.
Okay, so it might be a little like a romantic comedy. But the audience – which ranged from very old to very young – was a pretty evenly populated with men and women, and everyone was in stitches. No one is safe from sarcasm; not the boy-crazed airheads, not the uppity aristocrats, and not even the queen of irony herself, Elizabeth Bennett.
In fact, interestingly, Lizzy’s role is reprised by Jen Taylor from the initial 2000 opening of the show for Book-It’s 25th Anniversary Silver Jubilee, along with Brian Thompson again in the role of her father, Mr. Bennett. It probably doesn’t hurt that Goodwin, as the original text adapter and director, returned to recreate his vision.
One tip: Get there early enough to spend some time reading. There are great exhibits just outside the theater on manners and dress of the period, and the program has even more historical information on money, land, and society. It’s not necessary, but you’ll feel clever when you recognize the allusions the characters make.
If you’re supposed to read Pride and Prejudice for class, this show won’t just help you understand it – it will help you love it.
Pride and Prejudice
Book-It Repertory Theatre
November 25 - December 28