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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Jane Austen Unscripted
Each performance is improvised. The audience is asked to suggest a theme. The night I was there it was Adultery. For a second act, the audience chooses which actors they would like to see more of.
Austen aficionados will recognize Miss Smith from Emma opening the show, though her name here is Miss Green. The two gentlemen who join her are Mr. Darcy and his host in the country, under other names. And so it goes with the company winging it with amazing wit and accuracy. Sometimes the dialogue is halting but it can be revived by these skilled improvisers when one actor scoots along the back of the stage and looks down his suitably aristocratic nose at the bumbling efforts of a young couple to connect.
How the lighting cues are coordinated to send the house dark between scenes is an unplumbed mystery. Maybe the lighting director just said, "Six minutes and you're done." It makes as much sense as anything else in impro. Dan O'Connor and Paul Rogan direct which, one imagines, means lots of improvising and running scenes, until the actors are turned loose on stage at the mercy of the audience.
Most of Austen's core concerns are covered. Beguiling young women meet reserved young men and, with no loss of propriety and a good deal of outspokenness, engrave themselves into their hearts and souls forever.
The actors sometimes challenge each other. Associate Artistic Director Brian Lohmann as the Mr. Darcy character is asked to recite a poem, and comes up with a scenic ode about a great grey mountain peak reaching to Heaven's craic. "What is Heaven's craic?" queries one bold maiden. "It's a very good conversation in Ireland." he declares desperately and, in fact, it is, though one doubts Jane Austen ever had the chance to find out.
There's a lively debate about the merits of a standing invitation to the Green home versus standing on ceremony, a subject debated to this day. One of the most hilarious bits of physical mime involves two gentlemen on horseback galloping towards the footlights.
The inspired silliness and skill of this experienced impro troupe makes one want to see everything they do and, since Jane has a different script every night, one doesn't have to wait.