Review Roundup: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE at Virginia Stage Company
Virginia Stage Company presents PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, based on the 1813 novel by Jane Austen, and adapted for the stage by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE opened January 17th and runs through February 4th.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE stars Marina Shay, Lowell Byers, Grace Abele, Logan Bennett, Edwin Castillo, John Cauthen, Lynda Clark, Ryan Clemens, Grace Davis, Brianne Driscoll, Julie Fishell, Rachel Fobbs, Ja'quin Jones, Christopher Lindsay, Kristi Meyers, Ron Newman, April Poland, Jahmeel Powers, Jessica Sorgi, Julian Stetkevych, Brigitte Thieme-Burdette, Maggie Williams, and Ja'keetrius Woods.
Let's hear what the critics had to say!
Mal Vincent, The Virginian Pilot: As the directorial debut of the company's producing artistic director, Tom Quaintance, the treatment is serviceable in providing a home for the famous characters. Blessedly, it is not a modernization. But there are too many cases of miscasting and stuffiness. Great opportunities for comedy are missed. Lowell Byers is a tall and dashing Mr. Darcy, meeting all the requirements of a character who must range from initial arrogance to eventual insecurities in surrendering to an unusually clever woman. Marina Shay is a surprisingly listless and vulnerable Elizabeth , a part that requires wit, charisma and spunk. Jeni Schaefer's historically accurate period costuming does little to help differentiate Shay's Elizabeth from her four sisters. She only comes to life three-quarters through Act I, when she faces off against the nerdish parson who seeks to marry her. One might wonder what Darcy sees in her. Julian Stetkevych is the comic highlight, even though all is overdone, as Mr. Collins. He worships social status and is thrilled that he is "patronized" by Lady Catherine de Bourgh, whose haughtiness makes her a great comedic figure. She is a close kin to Oscar Wilde's Lady Bracknell, the champion of the genre. It is remarkable that Lynda Clark manages to play the part more for melodrama than for mannered comedy - particularly her final scene. She somehow misses the flair. Strangely, Clark has had experience in playing authority - from Queen Elizabeth in "The Lost Colony" to Maria Callas in "Master Class." So what happened here? In turn, Julie Fishell's shrieks as Mrs. Bennet are a bit grating given that the part is perfect for flighty foolishness. As the evening progresses, we warm a bit to her near-hysteria, but we liked her much better as Lizzie in "The Rainmaker" on this same stage. The set is little more than an exterior facade that is meant to represent the varied wealthy homes. At the least, it needs more vines. In the end, love wins. But with this "Pride and Prejudice" it is a narrow victory.
Rebecca Edwards, ALT Daily: Julie Fishell took the stage with a yell as Mrs. Bennet and we were off! Fishell's comedic timing and hilarious facial expressions were a character all their own that helped to set the pace of the evening. John Cauthen's Mr. Bennet was more solemn and reserved with a dry humor and witty punchlines that presented a wonderful balance to the over the top Fishell. The audience consumed the fare and laughed throughout the evening. Very quickly we met Jane Bennet, portrayed by VSC newcomer Rachel Lyn Hobbs and Elizabeth Bennet, portrayed by Marina Shay. Hobbs infused Jane's character with warmth and vitality. Shay owned Lizzy and created her with so much nuance and humor through the simplest of facial expressions and hand gestures that I never conceived when I read the story. I couldn't take my eyes off her. Brigitte Thieme-Burdette (Mary), Maggie Williams (Kitty), and Jessica Sorgi (Lydia) held their own as the remaining Bennet sisters, and each made their own mark throughout the evening. The play moved along and introduced the men. Lowell Byers was the epitome of Mr. Darcy. Tall, dark, handsome, proud, and prejudiced from the moment he walked onto the stage. His deep voice was clear and added depth and richness to the character. I appreciated watching his character develop through the play. I enjoyed it most when he and Shay were alone on stage exchanging comments, barbs, compliments, and finally confessions of love. Their pairing was so believable that I found myself rooting for them to get together as if I did not already know the story. Edwin Castillo as Charles Bingley was a wonderful match for Hobbs' Jane. They had good chemistry, and I could see their relationship develop in a natural way. Julian Stetkevych infused so much of the icky slime ball into his portrayal of Mr. Collins that I loved to hate him. He was fabulous! The rest of the cast was well matched, and I never felt that any one of them did not belong in the story... The choreography by Jordan Dunlap was mesmerizing and accentuated by some beautiful gowns from costume designer Jeni Schaefer. I loved Lady De Bourgh's amazing dress and appreciated the ball gowns of Georgiana and Caroline. Not all of her costumes were a hit though. The biggest detracting factor was the shoes. They were at eye level and I couldn't help noticing them. It felt like I had walked into a Payless Shoe Store and not in a good way. I'm not certain if it was because of the shoes, but the majority of the cast walked on their toes, which caused them to walk strangely. It changed their center of gravity, and I wondered several times if someone was going to trip or fall. Another costuming fail in my opinion was the ribbon along Mrs. Bennet's waistline. She fidgeted with it a good portion of the night and it became distracting at times. I did enjoy the simplicity of Jane and Lizzy's dresses. The color and cut complimented the actresses. The men's costumes were so elegant! The jackets and tall boots were pleasing to look at and accentuated the broad shoulders and narrow waists of the gentlemen.
Photo Courtesy of Virginia Stage Company.