Saturday, September 24, 2011

Quasi-review: Pride and Prejudice at South Coast Repertory

Tuesday night my mom and I headed down to South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa and saw a play I've been looking forward to seeing for ages: Pride and Prejudice.  I am calling this a "quasi-review" because, let's be honest, I have very, very little objectivity when it comes to Jane Austen.  I love her.  I also love anything that falls into the British-period-romantic category.  I cannot help myself.

With that in mind, let's begin.

The show is a period-correct, faithful adaptation of the book with one caveat: there is a brief "contemporary" opening in which a teenage girl is given a copy of the novel and then takes part in the action of the play as an observer and a reactor.  This, to me, was the single most distracting aspect of the entire play.  At one point she jumped into the carriage with Elizabeth and the Gardiners as they were heading to Pemberley.  Ack.  The actress playing the role, Claire Kaplan, brought as much as she could to it, but ultimately it was just incredibly annoying.

Here you can see how incongruous the "observer" character looked onstage.  Eek.
I enjoyed pretty much everything else about the play, though: the acting was good; great in some cases.  Mrs. Bennet, played by stage veteran Jane Carr, was perfect in the part, as was Randy Oglesby as Mr. Bennet and most of the other principle actors.  Mr. Collins was an absolute highlight as well.  Scott Drummond was perfectly awful as the socially awkward vicar and clearly delighted in every bit of it.

To me, the best part of seeing Pride and Prejudice live was the energy of the audience.  On a Tuesday night the show was just packed with Austen die-hards (as evidenced by some particularly nerdy bathroom-line conversation: "I agree that the '95 is vastly preferable to the '05 but have you seen the Olivier??  Oh you must, you must!"), and everyone in the room was clearly waiting for their favorite lines and scenes.  As each favorite was delivered ("An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth...") the room tensed with anticipation and howled with laughter.  It was truly an Austen geek-fest, and that is what made it such fun.

Pride and Prejudice is onstage at South Coast Repertory through October 9th.

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