BWW Review: Flirty Fun at Trinity Rep's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

BWW Review: Flirty Fun at Trinity Rep's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE has been adapted over and over (once with zombies!) because it's a classic tale of manners, social mores, love and determination. The version currently playing at Trinity Rep was adapted by Kate Hamill who is known for her contemporary adaptations of classic works. Unfortunately, in the case of this production, the excellent cast and cheeky adaptation were marred by clunky staging and what seemed like an unwillingness to fully commit to to the contemporary premise. Interesting double casting makes the show fun and unexpected in many ways, but also causes the stage to be set up in a way that doesn't do the audience any favors. True devotees of Pride and Prejudice will no doubt find much to love with the exceptional cast, but some of us may just be underwhelmed.

"I love balls... so much", is the first line in this adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Of course, we are quickly reminded of that classic first line of Pride and Prejudice-- "A man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." Rearranging those two lines sets the expectation for a fun and very *wink wink* night of looking for love and finding a lot of misunderstandings. What works very well in this production is leaning into the comedy very hard, right from the beginning. At the first party the Bennett family attends, Lydia (Katie Croyle) is downing glass after glass of rum punch and finally collapses on stage-- something she does more than once, actually. Angela Brazil, as Mary (also cast as Mr. Bingley) trots around stage carrying a birdcage that she's highly protective of, and Richard Donnelly as Mr. Bennett is hilariously resigned to being overrun by the women in his life. Janice Duclos is absolutely outstanding as the calculating but well-meaning Mrs. Bennett

Naturally, the comedy needs to be balanced out by drama and the stakes being raised, and Rebecca Gibel is a perfect Elizabeth Bennett. She's smart and determined and so easy to root for, even when it's obvious she's being stubborn for the sake of not admitting she was wrong. Her chemistry with Rachael Warren who plays both Mr. Darcy and Wickham is also quite electric, and maddeningly tense in the scenes where they're misunderstanding each other, but actually on the same side. Warren's Mr. Darcy is tense and socially awkward which is in sharp contrast to her portrayal of the confident and smarmy Wickham. One of the joys of the double castings in this show is watching the actors display so much range all within the same production.

The cast is clearly having a fantastic time, which makes the evening delightful, but the pacing does start to drag a bit in the second act when we shift our focus from going to balls and dancing to more serious matters like who inherits the family estate after Mr. Bennett dies. One of the larger issues, unfortunately is the blocking of the actors. The Dowling Theatre is a somewhat tricky space, but in the case of this production, the whole of the backstage area is taken up by places for the actors to do quick changes as they pivot between characters. That means the bulk of the action takes place right in the front, and for those seated right next to the stage, there's a lot of staring at actors' backs and missing those all important stolen glances that speak volumes.

Even when a show at Trinity has a few issues, the audience is still guaranteed exceptional performances, and that's certainly the case here. Joe Wilson Jr.'s elaborate fan dance as Miss Bingley is a moment of pure joy, and there are layers of jokes and physical humor that's so rapid fire it's impossible to catch them all.

PROVIDENCE, RI: Trinity Repertory Company presents Pride and Prejudice by Kate Hamill, as adapted from the novel by Jane Austen.
Performances run October 4 - November 4. Tickets are on sale by phone at (401) 351-4242, online at www.TrinityRep.com, or in person at the theater's box office at 201 Washington Street, Providence.

Photo: Left to Right: Joe Wilson, Jr. as Miss Bingley and Mr. Collins, Angela Brazil as Mr. Bingley and Mary, Richard Donelly as Charlotte, Rebecca Gibel as Lizzy Bennet, and Katie Croyle as Lydia. Photo by Mark Turek.

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From This Author Andria Tieman

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