I’ve never been a teenage girl and I’ve never read anything written by Jane Austen. So when it came time to go see PRIDE AND PREJUDICE at the Playhouse in the Park, I can’t say I was beating down a path to get to the theatre. Then I heard it was a three hour production and I thought twice about even attending. But I had a friend who loves the book and wanted to go so I bit the bullet and reserved my media passes and prepared to be underwhelmed.
Boy, was I surprised. And pleasantly so.
For those ignorant of the book, it is the story of Elizabeth Bennet (played by Kate Cook), a woman who isn’t all that interested in finding a husband despite the cultural (and her mother’s) expectations. Along comes Mr. Darcy (actor Loren Dunn) – a man as independent a thinker as Ms. Bennet – and slowly they develop a relationship that ends in jubilant joyful nuptials. It’s an antique soap opera, more or less.
This show moved at a brisk pace, making that three hour run time fly by. I credit the direction of Blake Robison for this accomplishment. I never found myself bored. I also enjoyed the comedic moments, especially those from Mr. Bennet (played with great charm by John Feltch), Kevin Orton as Mr. Collins, and the ensemble work of acting interns Britian Seibert (“Kitty”) and Shayna Schmidt (“Mary”). I loved many of the choices made by Kate Goehring (“Mrs. Bennet”) though I did think she was overdoing it just a little bit by the end of Act Two. The comedy was vitally important in keeping the audiences attention; without it this show would not appeal to the husbands and boyfriends dragged in against their will. Perhaps the highlight of the show for me was the moments featuring Deanne Lorette as Lady Cathering de Bourgh. She was delightfully delicious in her portrayal of a high society woman protecting her family’s fortune. Whenever she was on stage, the energy increased dramatically. She is a highlight of the show for sure.
I am sure that there are some folks who had different expectations of this show based on their loyalty and emotional memories of this classic literary work. But as someone not blinded by my own “prejudices,” I assume the basic story has been left intact and like many adaptions of things we remember from our youth, someone else’s vision does not always match our own.
Bottom line: I liked the show more than I planned to and I even found myself choked up at one point. I recommend it.