Review: DIE, MR. DARCY, DIE! at Best Medicine Rep

Best Medicine Rep concludes its 5th season

By: May. 01, 2022

Review: DIE, MR. DARCY, DIE! at Best Medicine Rep

Best Medicine Rep, a 5 year old company currently housed in Gaithersburg's Lakeforest Mall, has fielded a talented team of nine actors in a production of Die, Mr. Darcy, Die!, written and directed by John Morogiello, its Artistic Director. Eight of them play 3-10 characters each and are aided and abetted in this work by the clever skill of Costume Designer Elizabeth Kemmerer, maestra of hats, trim, period, building for quick changes, and pretty much everything garment-related in between. The play gets its silly from 21st century obsessions with relationships and sexual politics, so audience members who haven't read Jane Austen's 1813 Pride and Prejudice (Mr. Darcy's container) need not feel fear of missing out; Jane-junkies in the house just do extra laughing because "the more you know."

Zoë Bowen Smith plays Laura who has just turned 30 and is fed up with men. She fantasizes that her ideal mate ought to resemble Mr. Darcy; her fantasy holds her back because, well, it's 2022. Eventually she fantasizes a chat with Jane Austen herself which helps her put away childish things the way Dorothy learns that you can't invent your heart's desire in a magical place: you have to take what the game gives you. Even though she only plays one character, Smith as Laura must shift gears often, and Smith has the chops for that. Whether she's sharing popcorn on a co-worker's couch or a cafe table with Mr. Darcy, Smith manages Laura's chameleon-like life with precision. As Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, and eight other women, so does Karen Fleming who is a walking acting class--changing voices, postures, styles, mindsets with ease and facility. Her take on Laura's mother is particularly deft; the desperation of an average mom who endures the stresses of a generation different from Laura's yields a welcome, sober break from the relentless comedy of this play.

Die, Mr. Darcy, Die! wants to reference or reveal every single problem that a 30 year old woman can have with men: they're nerdy, they're married, they're gay or bi-, they're narcissists, they're idiots, or, like Mr. Darcy, they're blinkered inside their own social norms. The busy plot seems more a jack of all trades than a master of any; it resembles a polyhedron and might have been more pointed thematically with a few fewer facets.

Other fine performances include Erica Irving, as Edith Wharton and Laura's colleague Trudy; James Morogiello, who brings a terrific, posh British accent to the title role and a suitably snarky set of behaviors to Mike, who lives to harass Laura on her way to work. Jacqueline Youm brings a voice that belongs, unmiked, in a 900 seat house to Charlotte Bronte and a TV show host. Evan Crump's portrait of the nerdy Alex generously details a man who knows he's shy but also knows he's worthy. Mr. Darcy wouldn't get him, but the 21st century audience will.

The playwright's set design keeps it simple--some artfully placed mouldings against a single-colored wall; it's a wise solution for this oddly shaped space. Stan Levin's sound design adds to the fun (loved the Peter Gunn pun), but the drone of the ventilation system messed up his work and drowned out almost every actor at some point. Best Medicine Rep will doubtless fix this when the mall closes and they move.

The one hour and forty minute production runs through May 22. Tickets, directions, and information at http://bestmedicinerep.org.

(photo by Elizabeth Kemmerer

Edith Wharton (Karen Fleming), Charlotte Brontë (Jacqueline Youm), Virginia Woolf (Erica Irving), and Louisa May Alcott (Cristen Stephansky) give Laura, center, (Zoë Bowen Smith) some advice in Best Medicine Rep's production of Die, Mr. Darcy, Die! )



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