(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
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.