Review by Kathleen Lamorelle, guest reviewer for LCT
Romantics and comedy lovers alike will have a wonderful time at Cincinnati Shakespeare’s ensemble production of Pride and Prejudice, written by Kate Hamill and based on the novel by Jane Austin. The classic, beloved drama is freshly updated by Director Sara Clark, with over-the-top physical comedy, punches of modern humor, and sharp injections of sexual innuendo.
With her effective use of physical comedy, Mrs. Bennet, played by Sara Mackie, “steals the show,” a playgoer enthusiastically remarked. The hysterical and tactless mother-of-all-girls is consumed with finding a financially beneficial match for her daughters. If unsuccessful, disaster will befall the family with the estate’s inheritance by their flamboyant and predatory cousin, Mr. Collins. Mrs. Bennet’s constant scheming, physical antics and colorful language has the audience anticipating her next stunt. Her comedy and vulgarity belies the time period’s strong emphasis on manners, social class, and the “right” way to act.
Courtney Lucien aptly plays the confident, independent-minded, yet judgemental Lizzy. She is unlike other ladies of her time period, and everyone understands her firm commitment to never, ever, marry. However, when she lays eyes on the tall and handsome Mr. Darcy, Lizzy gradually starts to doubt herself, despite his arrogant demeanor. She becomes visibly conflicted, and her proud veneer begins to crack. She wrongly judges Darcy on several counts and is ultimately humbled when he saves the family from a major scandal.
The youngest daughter, Lydia (Colleen Dougherty filled in as understudy for Miranda McGee), is impulsive and reckless, believing that marriage matches are simply a game. How could she believe otherwise, with a mother such as Mrs. Bennett? Lydia wants to be in on the game, and impulsively runs off with the scoundrel Wickham, played by a properly haughty Darnell Pierre Benjamin. Ms. Dougherty’s portrayal of a gossip-addicted fourteen year old girl is quite entertaining. She is believable as a teenager with her flailing limbs, flitting about the stage, eye rolling, and infectious smile.
Mrs. Bennet’s highly energetic and loud meddling is acutely contrasted with Mr. Bennet’s restrained, hands-off parenting style. Jeremy Dubin portrays Mr. Bennet as a passive father, who seems more interested in reading his newspaper than securing the family’s security. However, there are moments when he stunts his wife with his quick wit, hitting home with the audience.
One of the most entertaining and clever aspects of the show is the double casting. Crystian Wiltshire commands attention as Mary, whose character mostly veers from the original novel. Her costume is an obvious reflection of her personality. The homely sister’s body language and expressions are sometimes prophetic, often strange, but consistently comical. The theater’s small and intimate space allows the audience to enjoy every facial expression and subtle movement. As Mr. Bingley, Wiltshire is a sweet personality mix of man and puppy, following and obeying his love interest, Jane.
Angelique Archer plays the unswerving and steadfast sister Jane, as well as the farcical Miss DeBourgh. As Jane, her steadfastness contrasts with Lizzy’s changing feelings. As DeBourgh, Archer rises to the challenge of portraying the character solely through body acting, costume, and illegible sounds.
Jared Joplin’s Mr. Darcy is sufficiently proud and arrogant. Yet, in this production Joplin also makes him just awkward enough, just vulnerable enough, that the audience sympathizes with him. At times he’s like a socially uncomfortable teenage boy, inexperienced with women. When he bears his heart and is harshly rejected by Lizzy, the audience begins to root for him. His secret generosity and kindness to the Bennett family reveals his true character, and paves the way for a happy ending. Joplin’s subtle comedy fits perfectly with Darcy’s character.
Mr. Darcy remains as one of the most beloved romantic heroes in literature of all time. When he finally wins over the heart of the stubborn and spirited Lizzy, the audience at CincyShakes collectively swoons.
See Pride and Prejudice at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company through June 19, at 1195 Elm St, Cincinnati. Click HERE for tickets.
Kathleen Lamorelle loves music, theatre, classic movies, teaching kids to swim, and her family.