Preview of Pride and Prejudice at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

(Can you identify the four Bennet sisters left to right in this photo? Answer at bottom of post!)

Jane Austen’s beloved novel Pride and Prejudice continues to allow us to “make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn” as a new stage production opened on February 21st, 2010 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Adapted by Joseph Hanreddy and J. R. Sullivan, this play premiered to positive reviews at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater in March 2009.

Although the theatricalization of novels can be enormously challenging, Hanreddy and Sullivan found a way to retain every major subplot and nearly every character. More importantly, the collaborators captured “Pride and Prejudice’s” tone when they moved the book to the stage. Damien Jaques Milwaukee Journal Sentinal

Hanreddy is also the artistic director the the Milwaukee Rep and discusses his choice and experience adapting Austen’s classic novel to the stage in this interesting interview.

The reviews from the Oregon production have been rather mixed, so one wonders out loud if and how they have changed it or, now that it is on the road and does not have home team advantage of local publicity that reviewers are being more honest. Horrors! Marty Hughley of the Oregonian has given it the worst possible insult – that it lacks passion!

It’s also bloodless, with little in the way of sexual heat or even emotional charge to the stop-start romances that form the heart of the story. Part of that’s due to a sense of period-piece restraint, but part is due to a leading man, Elijah Alexander, who in his few OSF roles so far has distinguished himself as professionally handsome, and little else. Marty Hughley Oregonian

On an upbeat note, its charms do appear to outweigh its foibles:

In Jane Austen’s much-loved novel of manners, “Pride and Prejudice,” love and marriage may not go together like a horse and carriage. But the new stage adaptation by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan that opened Saturday at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival positively moves at a canter. It sparkles and enthralls and is delightfully played out in a charming, minimalist production with emphasis on dancing and music. Robert H. Miller Ashland Daily Tidings

Kate Hurster and Elijah Alexander spar, and ultimately woo, with sparks worthy of Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth in the 1995 BBC version of the story, which launched the wave of Austen mania that continues, and which remains superior to the 2005 Hollywood version. Bill Varble Medford Mail Tribune

It’s exactly what you’re hoping for when you buy the tickets. It’s beautiful to look at, well-acted, romantic as well as melodramatic. John Casker, Ashland Link

Regardless of the decidedly mixed opinions, this Janeite is planning and plotting an excursion to Ashland for her birthday in May, and will politely remind reviewers that Bennet is spelled with one T and …

“It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first.” Elizabeth Bennet Chapter 18

Pride and Prejudice at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival runs until October 31st, 2010 at the Angus Bowmer Theater in Ashland, Oregon. Additional information and tickets can be found online OSF website.

Pride and Prejudice, adapted from Jane Austen’s novel by Joseph Hanreddy and J. R. Sullivan
Directed by Libby Appel

Cast List

Fitzwilliam Darcy – Elijah Alexander
Elizabeth Bennet – Kate Hurster
Mrs. Bennet – Judith-Marie Bergan
Mr. Bennet – Mark Murphey
Jane Bennet – Nell Geisslinger
Lydia Bennet – Susannah Flood
Mary Bennet – Christine Albright
Kitty Bennet – Kimbre Lancaster
Charles Bingley – Christian Barillas
George Wickham – John Tufts
Mr. Collins – James Newcomb
Lady Catherine de Bourgh – Demetra Pittman
Caroline Bingley – Brooke Parks
Charlotte Lucas – Lisa McCormick
Sir William Lucas/Mr. Gardiner – Michael J. Hume
Lady Lucas/Mrs. Reynolds – Linda Alper
Mrs. Gardiner – Robin Goodrin Nordli
Colonel Fitzwilliam – Kevin Kenerly
Colonel Fitzwilliam – Rex Young
Ensign Denny/Servant – Jonathan Dyrud
Officer/Servant – Eymard Meneses Cabling
Officer/Servant/Ensemble – Nicholas Walker
Georgiana/Anne de Bourgh/Servant – Meryn MacDougall
Vocalist – Kay Hilton

*Answer to the photo quiz above: P&P Bennet sisters left to right: Elizabeth (Kate Hurster), Kitty (Kimbre Lancaster), Mary (Christine Albright) and Jane (Nell Geisslinger). Ok! When will poor Mary Bennet not be portrayed with glasses and high-neck frocks? No hope of ever, I fear.

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10 thoughts on “Preview of Pride and Prejudice at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

  1. I’m definitely going to go see it. It’s not that often that we get to see something from Austen (let’s hope it stays close to her work) in Southern Oregon.

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  2. You know, I really try to avoid this sort of thing, but given the rough treatment this production is getting in some quarters I thought you might enjoy my own review – I won’t double-link (manners!) but feel free to click on my name to see it.

    I’m happy to have discovered your site through the power of google!

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  3. My daughter and I loved this production (except for one thing)…the staging worked, the rapid movement through time, the complex relationships and verbal sparring were all very satisfying. My daughter and I both agree that Mr. Darcy lacked the aought-after quality that can captivate audiences. Which is really too bad, I mean, we are supposed to hunger for Mr. Darcy and even want him for ourselves, but Elijah Alexander’s awkwardness lacked charm and appeal.

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  4. I agree with Molly. I prefer a proud, snobby Mr. Darcy who reforms, not an awkward Mr. Darcy who is simply misunderstood. The production made him seem like he was desirable only because he was rich. But other than that, I enjoyed the play. I don’t think I’ll ever completely love any adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, play or movie, that tries to condense the book into 2 hours, but I guess they can’t really keep us in the theatre for 6 hours unless it’s an opera…

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  5. My class was able to travel from Vancouver to Oregon to watch the opening preformance to the play.
    We absolutly loved it and met all the actors afterward. Including Mr.Darcy who we swarmed just to hear his voice.

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  6. It is so nice to be able to watch a romantic comedy without it being over-sexed and women showing everything. In today’s world this play is like a breath of fresh air.

    Mr Darcy came across to me as being dark and handsome and full of himself, at first. Then later he became ditzy and awkward around Elizabeth – And, that is fine because it is a good way to show the sexual tension that he is feeling for her without it being completely spelled out.

    I enjoyed the play and would have no problem going to see it again sometime.

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