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BWW Review: Let There Be No Prejudice Here

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What is the correlation between the pride one may have for him or her self and the prejudice that same person may have against a certain individual - perhaps against humanity in general? How does the way in which a woman views herself affect the manner in which she reacts to people who are less satisfactory to her liking? Indeed, how does a man who has seen the harshness of others tame his anger towards the world and become seemingly taciturn and indifferent rather than shoulder the burden of appearing amicable when this is not how he feels? There is such a clash of not only personalities, but of that which makes people behave a certain way: of their morals, their opinions and most importantly, that which makes them recoil in a way unprecedented in their many years of being who each is. Self discovery truly comes when the presence and influence of another demands that one's perception not only can be altered, but should be; it is when a person takes a look at himself from without and at last realizes that not all people should be viewed in the same light. It is when the chance of redemption sneaks its ugly head into the present circumstance, and whether or not to change oneself is the biggest obstacle of all; indeed, we are our biggest obstacles. All of this is accounted for in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, making it one of the most profound pieces of literature that has withstood the test of time and has even been turned into a play - a play that The Monomoy Theatre has turned into a wonderful production that is being presented to a Cape Cod audience this summer.

Written by Austen, adapted by Jon Jory and here directed by Jay Stratton (bravo, indeed), Pride and Prejudice is quite the complicated novel: with its many discussions of morals, societal class and fundamentally the confines of self-worth, there is an incredible amount of depth to Austen's work. As many of you already know, Pride and Prejudice tells the story of the Bennet family: a family of seven (including five daughters of marrying-age) living comfortably in Hertfordshire who jump at the opportunity of introducing their daughters to the newest eligible bachelor in town, Mr. Bingley. Mr. Bingley almost instantly falls in love with the eldest and most beautiful daughter, Jane. Also in town is a Mr. Darcy, a proud, indifferent young man who is Bingley's closest friend and confidant, and who takes a particular interest in the second eldest daughter, Elizabeth. Due to both Elizabeth's and Darcy's combined pride and prejudice, trouble ensues when feelings begin to arise between the two couples (some more amiable than others), making people question the true intentions of both themselves and those around them. With the very verbose Mr. Collins, a very stubborn and haughty Lady Catherine de Bourg and a colorful cast with many conflicting views, Pride and Prejudice's already intense plot is heightened when presented before a live audience.

It is the ideal novel, with the strong-willed and self-sufficient protagonist who is hardly woeful of the so-called villain's plight; indeed, she is rather quick to mock and criticize his shortcomings, making her almost as condescending as those who are unscrupulous in their snide remarks of and towards others. The apparent villain is less monster than man, having on too many occasions been taken aback by the world and its faults and thus reacting in a way that he sees fit. To have two such characters meet and cause each to reevaluate him or her self is the part of the story no one can ever see coming. Elizabeth Bennet doesn't necessarily see how much like Darcy she truly is: she is cynical and quick to detect the wrongfulness of a situation. She is also very fast-witted and eager to comment on something she believes to be acquainted with well as fact, because she has adopted such a fact as her own and therefore a truthful part of an argument she wishes to make. Darcy understands the world a bit too well, and instead of quarreling with people about how little esteem he has for it, would rather reserve his thoughts. Both believe themselves to be right and just in character, but the reasons this opinion comes about are very different; this is the classic self vs. circumstance argument, and putting this on stage makes Pride and Prejudice such a dramatic story to stage.

It is safe to say that Monomoy has done a spectacular job staging Austen's work: from the chosen cast, the beautiful period costumes and the way in which it just felt like the novel should feel, there is really nothing bad to say about this production. The set was beautiful, and without moving more than a few chairs around made it both appropriate and very efficient throughout the entire show. The portrayal of the ball, a wonderful scene filled with dancing, merriment and a bit of tenseness, was beautifully staged. It is difficult to transform a stage into something that makes the audience really feel as though it becomes part of the period in which the story takes place, but this was successfully done at this production. And, what would a wonderful production be without the actors who make it all possible? Darren Brown as Mr. Darcy is able to capture the wonderful mix of superiority, insecurity and just the general sense of discomfort that make Mr. Darcy the truly intriguing character he is. There are moments when Brown makes Darcy appear noticeably uncomfortable around others, even when he simultaneously trying to uphold his "mightier-than-thou" appearance, and the transition this character makes (or rather, the revelation, as I don't think Darcy really changes his personality...he just lets its out) from being stern and unapproachable to vulnerable and just plain human is astounding. Brown really does a great job in showing how such a man can change, when given sufficient and acceptable reason and chance to.

Bryce Wood in the role of Mr. Bingley is a bit of a change from the roles he has previously been cast in, but of course he is able to make it work. He is a modest Bingley, as he is usually portrayed, but he also adds a bit of spark to his character by making him more personable - not just a man afraid to take any sort of initiative. Arlene Bozich as Elizabeth Bennet was perfectly cast. She really embodies the character as written in words, and makes her jump off the page to be presented as a real person with ardent feelings and less than modest opinions of the world. She really does an amazing job bringing this character to life, and I found it amazing how, throughout the show, she gives way to spoken personal reflections that I think Elizabeth probably did do when not confiding in her sister. Alan Rush* and Ellen Fiske* as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are the perfect married couple: she is the epitome of nerves, and he the epitome of "What am I doing here?" This is one of those iconic couples that require a certain chemistry between the actors, and they captured it perfectly. Although I cannot name everyone, there are many people in this show that I have seen in almost every production this summer, and my opinion of their abilities has not changed. The entire cast is very superbly talented, which is why I always enjoy a stellar Monomoy production.

Pride and Prejudice, presented by The Monomoy Theatre (located at 776 Main Street in Chatham, MA) began performances on August 11th, and will continue thru August 15th. The performance schedule is as follows: August 13th, 14th and 15th @ 8:00 PM. Tickets are $28. Refreshments are available during intermission, and please use that time to enjoy Monomoy's beautiful outdoor area.

Enjoy the show!

*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association

Photo Credit: Dawniella Sinder


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