TR Robertson — One of the most popular novels of all time, Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, has been made into a multitude of plays and movies, but Kate Hamill’s unique interpretation of this classic puts a whole new spin on the Bennet clan, adding a dash of humor, a pinch of over-the-top emotion and smidgen of the modern world. This is “Pride and Prejudice” like you have never seen it before and Cygnet Theatre is presenting an amazing interpretation of her play. This is a classic tale everyone, regardless of age, and anyone who has no clue what this story is about can enjoy, laugh at and understand.
Austen’s initial intent was to write a story challenging the importance of marriage in the early 1800’s and despite the social pressures that young women of some standing should marry for status and money, push the ridiculous idea that men and women should marry because they were in love. Associate Artistic Director Rob Lutfy has brought together a talented, veteran group of actors and actresses, all Cygnet veterans with the exception of one “newbie”, a Craig Noel Award winner for Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role.
Photos by Karli Cadel
As the audience took their seats, the first thing you noticed was the very unusual set and prop design. High above the stage on the left side hung an illuminated sign stating “by the author of Sense and Sensibility”, a reference to how Austen had to sign her novels since as a woman of the 1800”s, writing novels was for men only. A series of large storage structures contained a number of props, furniture, and other items, many of which would be used in the play. In the back section of the stage hung a number of costumes, many of these would be used in the play as well. Slowly, members in the cast, in period costumes, began to walk on the stage as Elizabethan music played in the background. As they gathered on stage, the group of “ladies” began to play blind tag. After a series of changes on who was it, men joined the “ladies on stage. The group then began to dance to an Elizabethan song. After a few moments, this changed into Van Halen’s Jump” and it was at this point the audience should have figured out that this was not your typical interpretation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
The unmarried ladies of the Bennet family consisted of eldest daughter Jane, played by Craig Noel Award winner Joy Yvonne Jones. Most of the cast plays a series of additional roles in the play. Joy also played Anne and a servant. Most of the play centered on daughter Elizabeth or Lizzy. Lizzy is bound and determined to never marry or at least to marry because she is in love with someone, but Mom Bennet is determined to marry off Lizzy, or any of the daughters, because the suitor has sufficient financial standing. Jacque Wilke is a dynamic Lizzy, the only role she plays. Jacque is also a Craig Noel Award winner and with her performance, you are convinced Lizzy will only marry for her own right reasons. . She presents a perfect foil to the male suitors, especially Mr. Darcy. The middle daughter, Mary, is played by Kevin Hafso-Koppman, who also plays Mr. Bigley, one of the suitors, and a servant. As Mary Kevin is hilarious and presents Mary as the third child, over looked, ignored and at times neglected. She is certainly the loudest child. Daughter Lydia, is played by Michelle Marie Trester, the excitable, impetuous youngest daughter. Michelle was an opening night favorite daughter and had the audience chuckling at many of her sisterly reactions to the other sisters. To no one’s surprise, Lydia is the first to marry and the first to be asked to leave the household. Michelle also plays the matronly Lady Catherine. Shana Wride plays Mrs. Bennet, whose entire life with her daughter’s centers on marrying off her daughters, her emotional outburst at the beginning of Act II, ending with referring to her daughters as “dried-up spinster daughters” is a thing to behold. Shana is also a Craig Noel Award winner.
Male performers in “Pride and Prejudice” include Jake Millgard, who plays Wickam, Collins and Miss Bingley. Wickam will swoop Lydia from the family and Jake’s portrayal of the lustful minister Collins is eerie. Adrian Alita portrays the head of the household, Mr. Bennet, a servant and a wonderful Charlotte, a friend of Lizzy’s. You admire the stoic presentation of Mr. Bennet and he is very convincing as Lizzy’s dear friend Charlotte. The final cast member is Steven Lone, who plays Mr. Darcy, the pompous, arrogant Mr. Darcy, who is controlled by his aunt, Lady Catherine. Mr. Darcy is looking for a wife, he just doesn’t know how to deal with someone as proud and forthright as Lizzy.
Director Rob Lufty’s production staff consists of Choreographer Michael Mizerany, Sound Designer Melanie Chen Cole, Dialect Coach Vanessa Dinning, Scenic Designer Sean Fanning, Properties Designer Rachel Hengst, Costume Designer Shirley Pierson, Wig & Make-up Designer Peter Herman, Lighting Designer Chris Rynne and Stage Manager Dean Remington.
The classics have never been so much fun and those attending will walk away appreciating this popular novel, now a revised play by Kate Hamill, even more. “Pride and Prejudice” will run thru June 16th. Tickets can be purchased at 619-337-1525 or go to www.cygnettheatre.org.