The five Bennet sisters are uniformly unwed at the outset of Jane Austen’s classic 1813 novel “Pride and Prejudice.” Without any male heirs, their father’s meager fortune will fall into the hands of Mr. Collins, the odious cousin of the Bennet sisters. Thus is incited the family’s quest for matrimony en masse.
Each character approaches the matter with different expectations of what a marriage should be; some value love, some value dowry and some value reputation. It’s not hard to guess which two aspects of human nature cause much of the conflict in the story (hint: check the title).
“Pride and Prejudice” is brought from page to stage this week by IU Theatre. Jon Jory, the artistic director credited with bringing Actors Theatre of Louisville to prominence, wrote the adaptation, and IU professor Dale McFadden directed.
Emily Harpe stars as Elizabeth Bennet, the second eldest of the sisters. Harpe strongly plays up Elizabeth’s wit, earthiness and sensibility. One can’t help but admire her character’s talent for the frank rejection of undesirable men.
Opposite her is Josh Krause as Fitzwilliam Darcy, the wealthy suitor who quickly garners Elizabeth’s abhorrence. Mr. Darcy’s poor social skills make for a rocky start to his pursuits in the play.
A tender romance develops between the eldest Bennet daughter, Jane (Mara Lefler), and the charming Charles Bingley (Jason Craig West). Lefler and West are endearing and heartwarming without crossing into mawkishness.
George Wickham (Austin Wilson) throws a wrench into the works by wooing Elizabeth, then unexpectedly claiming a different Bennet sister as his bride. Wilson underscores Wickham’s allure with subtle tones of sly menace.
Jory’s adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” dials up the humor of the story. When the refined etiquette of the Regency Era breaks down, comic awkwardness follows. McFadden’s direction juices these moments delightfully.
Those who haven’t read the novel may find it difficult to track the plot of “Pride and Prejudice.” Austen weaves together a multitude of threads in the story, and Jory leaves relatively little on the cutting room floor.
Audiences are transported to Regency England by the script’s erudite and archaic language, Kelsey Nichols’ costumes, Andrea Ball’s set and the period movement (coached and choreographed by guest artist Nira Jean Pullin).
On a political level, “Pride and Prejudice” examines the period’s cultural attitudes concerning class and family. The play pokes fun at the upper class with snobbish characters such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Ashley Dillard).
“Pride and Prejudice” proves a worthwhile outing, and will likely live up to the expectations of Austen fans.
If you go
WHO: Indiana University Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance.
WHAT: “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, adapted for stage by Jon Jory.
WHERE: Ruth N. Halls Theatre in the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday.
TICKETS: $15-25. Available by phone at 812-855-1103 or online at http://www.theatre.indiana.edu.
Reprinted with permission from The Herald Times. Story Link