Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Pride & Prejudice"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi


"PRIDE & PREJUDICE"

by Jane Austen
adapted and directed by Andrea Kennedy

Elizabeth Bennet … Alicia Kahn
Lydia Bennet … Kelly Galvin
Kitty Bennet … Claire Davis
Mary Bennet … Angie Jepson
Jane Bennet … Melina McGrew
Mrs. Bennet … Charlotte Peed
Sir William Lucas … Ed Peed
Mr. Bingley … Spencer Christie
Mr. Darcy … Derek Stone Nelson
Mr. Bennet … Ed Peed
Caroline Bingley … Victoria George
Charlotte Lucas … Angie Jepson
Mr. Collins … Marc Harpin
Denny … Marc Harpin
George Wickham … David Shaw
Mrs. Gardiner … Charlotte Peed
Lady Catherine … Gladdy Matteosian
Anne De Bourgh … Claire Davis
Colonel Fitzwilliam … David Shaw
Mr. Gardiner … Ed Peed
Mrs. Reynolds … Bethany Winkels
Georgiana Darcy … Kelly Galvin
Sarah … Bethany Winkels
Hill … Bethany Winkels

I attended the second to the last performance of Wellesley Summer Theatre’s PRIDE & PREJUDICE and might have enjoyed the production better had I not done my homework and read Jane Austen’s novel about the five unmarried Bennet sisters and their suitors, particularly the frank-tongued Elizabeth, the disdainful Darcy and their rocky courtship. The novel’s slow-moving pace allows for layered character development and mirrors the leisurely country life of the early nineteenth-century and Ms. Austen’s social observations are shrewd and amused. Andrea Kennedy condensed Ms. Austen’s intricacies to three hours’ worth of stage traffic; granted, some skimming and simplifying was inevitable but even so the action rapidly unfolded as if some bored, invisible reader chose to flip through the pages rather than read from cover to cover. With so many episodes coming at you, the side tables and chairs were ever flying about --- not surprisingly, the longer set-pieces came off best when the furniture settled down and the characters caught their breaths and thickened: Elizabeth being proposed to by the self-righteous Mr. Collins; Darcy’s own two offers of marriage (one, clueless; one, informed); Elizabeth’s unexpected clash with the formidable Lady Catherine. On the other hand, the pivotal scene when Elizabeth reads Darcy’s letter that reveals him as the evening’s hero, after all, was reduced to a recital between author and recipient; apart from a mime of its contents being performed in the background, I can think of no other way of dramatizing a passage that clings so stubbornly to the page.

Several supporting actors came off as the most Austen-ian: Victoria George’s sublimely catty Miss Bingley (regal even when moving furniture in semi-darkness); Angie Jepson’s Mary Bennet, an amusing bookworm-mouse; Bethany Winkels’ two walk-on maids. Ed Peed relied on mannerisms for his various elders and whenever Charlotte Peed swapped her Mrs. Bennet for her Mrs. Gardiner, her voice had a loveliness reminiscent of the late Katherine Cornell. In contrast, Alicia Kahn loudly declaimed her Elizabeth throughout as if her audience were stone-deaf or stone-stupid which robbed her performance of any warmth or subtleties; during one passage, I put my fingers to my ears and was startled by Ms. Kahn’s visuals that evoked a colt foaming at the mouth as it nears the finish line (Kelly Galvin, turned hard once again, was a close second as Lydia Bennet). I found Derek Stone Nelson’s Darcy to be on the fatherly side and far too soft-spoken and agreeable in his arrogance, thus his conversion merely passed from A to B. Ms. Kahn and Mr. Nelson did share a moment of magic, however: once her Elizabeth accepted his Darcy they briefly strolled together, side by side, and instantly became a Couple.

Lucy Dean designed the pleasing period costumes and in one scene Ken Loewit bathed his setting in a golden light that made even Ms. Kahn look soft and appealing.

"Pride & Prejudice" (6-25 June)
WELLESLEY SUMMER THEATRE
The Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre, Wellesley College, WELLESLEY, MA
1 (781) 283-2000

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