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A CurtainUp Review
Purists need be forewarned that the gifted and talented Hamill has eloped just a bit recklessly with the irony, wit and insightfulness of the novel's matrimonial considerations as it applied to 19th century provincial England— no apology needed as we welcome it as a Regency romp. That the entirety of her adaptation being presented by Primary Stages is dangerously farcical in conception and execution shouldn't deter you.
The bells are ringing as often as they are tolling (literally) in the hands of the eight members of the cast as they collaboratively punctuate scenes that will instigate more continuous bedlam under the madcap direction of Amanda Dehnert than there is a hint of any primary staging, That doesn't mean that Hamill, who also delightfully inhabits the pivotal role of Lizzy Bennet, hasn't respected Austin's pervading theme: survival of the middle class unmarried female. Pride and Prejudice has been filmed and staged numerous times including a Broadway musical First Impressions
About the domestic and romantic travails that appear to occupy every moment of every day for the four unmarried sisters in the Bennet family, the plot follows their attempts to secure husbands of worth. If the more discreet charm of the original story is sacrificed and replaced with more comically madcap antics, it is nevertheless clear to just how far the ladies can simply and safely rely solely on the demands of Georgian gentility.
Presented semi-en travesty with multiple role playing by a terrific cast eight, this version, nevertheless, remains commendably faithful to Austin's plot yet with an almost giddy disposition towards parody. I doubt that the Bennet girls have ever been put through more costume changes or donned more dime-store headdresses to snare their prey.
This is not a lavish production but rather the opposite with just a few set pieces, mostly silly props and some wonderfully catch as catch can costumes by Tray Christensen. There is no time wasted by changing apparel in full view whether man into woman or the reverse. Think of Halloween night in 19th century Hertfordshire and you get the picture. You may be as startled as is everyone in the room when Mary (John Tufts, who also plays the too-nice-for-words Bingley) enters a room looking like Dracula's daughter. A running and hilarious bit of shtick is the shriek she inspires from everyone she encounters with her every entrance.
Hamill is a splendidly willful, independently minded Lizzy. Her Beatrice and Benedict-like battle of the sexes with the also self-sufficient Mr. Darcy (Jason O'Connell) has a nicely prickly resonance, possibly because Mr. O'Connell is Ms Hamill's partner in real life. Of course, we know that all the sisters find their man but what a whale of time we have watching their cavorting and conniving under the tutelage of their doting, match-making mother played by Nance Williamson with just the right touch of the dithers.
Chris Thorn is terrific as the put-upon, not especially patient Mr. Bennet as he is giving us a refreshing perspective of Lizzie's best friend Charlotte Lucas who offers the play's most provocative sentiment: "Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life."
Chewing the scenery is not a bad thing in this instance when all are abetting gloriously in this conceit. Among the more expertly committed to playing it for laughs are Mark Bedard as the boorish clergyman Mr. Collins; Kimberly Chatterjee as the recklessly flirtatious Lydia, and even better as a hilariously headstrong Lady Catherine.
Believe it or not, a musical motif from Star Wars and a hit song also from the mid-20th century "The Game of Love" are amusingly factored into the scenario. Just be aware that matchmaking a la Austin in the Georgian manner has rarely been afforded so much giddy fun and funny games.
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Pride and Prejudice
Adapted by Kate Hamill from the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Amanda Dehnert
Cast: Mark Bedard (Mr. Collins, Ms. Bingley, Mr. Wickham), Kimberly Chatterjee (Lydia, Lady Catherine), Kate Hamill (Lizzy), Jason O?Connell (Mr. Darcy), Amelia Pedlow (Jane, Miss DeBourgh), Chris Thorn (Charlotte Lucas, Mr. Bennet), John Tufts (Bingley, Mary), Nance Williamson (Mrs. Bennet)
Scenic Design: John McDermott
Costume Design: Tray Christensen
Lighting Design: Eric Southern
Sound Design: Palmer Hefferan
Choreography: Ellenore Scott
Production Stage Manager: Roxana Khan
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes including intermission
Primary Stages at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street
From 11/07/17 Opened 11/19/17 Ends 12/15/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on matinee performance 11/18/17
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