BWW Reviews: Bristol Riverside Theater's PRIDE & PREJUDICE
Bristol Riverside Theatre celebrates the 200th anniversary of Jane Austin's 19th century romance novel "Pride & Prejudice" with an interesting, profoundly narrated stage production.
Jon Jory's stage adaptation is chosen and long time Bristol director Edward Keith Baker strips away some of England's most dazzling estates, sprawling countryside and leaves the exposition to introductory passages in which an actor steps up to forward the plot in the form of tidbits about a relationship, or bit of gossip.
Jane Austen's classic novel about the prejudice that occurred between the 19th century classes and the pride which would keep lovers apart. The story is about four sisters, an anxious matchmaking mother, a string of unsuitable suitors, and a worrisome father who realizes his estate will be lost without a male heir.
When Elizabeth meets the well bread, wealthy Mr. Darcy, she is determined not to let her feelings triumph over her own good sense - but the truth turns out to be more revealing than it seems.
The highlight of Bristol's production lies in its stellar cast which never misses a single line in this linguistically challenging, exhaustingly long narrative. Adding to their proficiency in this accomplishment, nearly every artist has done their homework on character development; from the humorously, wife seeking Parson Mr. Collins (Grant Chapman) to the obnoxious, upper crust Aristocrat Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Mary Elizabeth Scallen). Standout performances are offered by Bristol favorite Jo Twiss (Mrs. Bennet), and Marc LeVasseur (George Wickham).
Admittedly, the enormous amount of narrative to forward the plot and characters in lieu of the lush romantic film seems a bit tedious after the first 2 hours. However, the fine acting truly compensates for the production. Sets are simple and certainty a far cry from the novel's Pemberley and Netherfield Park manses. Secondary characters carry several pieces of scenery and seemingly dozens of chairs from one spot to another in the one set stage, yet they have little opportunity or time to do more than lay down the foundation for the remainder of the play.
There is much chemistry between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy (Kahn & Halling). Kahn maintains her proper etiquette while she proves capable of matching Darcy dig for dig and snub for snub. For his part, Darcy has hurt a woman he comes to discover he truly loves. Elizabeth's eldest sister Jane (Jessica Bedford) and Darcy's close friend Mr. Bingley (Topher Mikels) form a less than inspiring romance, while sweet, seems to lack much depth; still after much delay and hearsay, they marry. While Elizabeth's abrupt refusal of marriage deeply wounds the pompous Mr. Darcy, whom she has discovered a most dishonorable back story about him at the hands of long time friend Mr. Wickham.
The second act is their redemptioN. Darcy and Elizabeth realize the mistakes they've made, both make changes in their behavior, and they both fight to get back into society's and each other's good graces. And as they say, they all live happily ever after.