Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle – A Review

Cast of Book-It Reperatory Theatre's adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility 2011

“Happy, happy Elinor, you cannot have an idea of what I suffer.”

“Do you call me happy, Marianne? Ah; if you knew! And can you believe me to be so while I see you so wretched!”

– Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 29

Happiness and suffering, and the emotional extremes that cause it, is an important theme in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility that was well served in a new stage adaptation of her novel premiering at the Book-It Repertory Theatre on June 3rd at the Centre House Theatre, Seattle Center. It is the Rep’s fourth Austen novel to stage production after the highly successful Pride and Prejudice in 2004, Persuasion in 2008, and Emma in 2010. Their interpretations of Austen are always brisk, lighthearted and memorable. Jane Austen has been very good to the Rep, and obviously, audiences have felt that the Rep has been likewise to Jane Austen. Continue reading “Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle – A Review”

A Preview of Sense and Sensibility Stage Play at Book-It Rep in Seattle

Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Repertory Theatre (2011)

We are very fortunate to have one of the nation’s premiere small theater companies right in our own backyard. For the last 20 years the Book-It Repertory Theater of Seattle has been exclusively adapting written work for the stage. Among the sixty plus world premier adaptations they have presented are stage productions of three Jane Austen novels: Pride and Prejudice (2004), Persuasion (2008) and Emma (2010). Now in honor of the bicentenary of the publication of Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility will premiere on Friday June 3, 2011 at the Center House Theatre. Continue reading “A Preview of Sense and Sensibility Stage Play at Book-It Rep in Seattle”

Preview of Jane Austen’s Emma: A Musical Romantic Comedy at the Old Globe

Jane Austen's Emma: A Romantic Musical Comedy at the Old Globe (2011)

Jane Austen’s Emma, the new romantic comedy from Tony Award nominated composer Paul Gordon and directed by Tony Award nominee, Jeff Calhoun, is a musical production of Austen classic story of our favorite nonsensical girl. It premiers January 15, and runs through February 27, 2011 at the Old Globe Theatre in Dan Diego, California.

Emma, a timeless love story from one of the most widely read writers of all time, is now a musical, and will once again entice modern audiences to fall in love with one of Jane Austen’s most adored characters. Emma, a beautiful and clever young woman who prides herself on her matchmaking ability, is preoccupied with romance yet is clueless to her own feelings of love. When she takes on a young friend as her latest project, her well-intentioned efforts misfire, leading to a whirlwind of complications. Deliciously charming, this new romantic comedy from Tony Award nominated composer Paul Gordon and directed by Tony Award nominee, Jeff Calhoun, brings Jane Austen’s masterpiece to musical life.

Cast

  • Emma Woodhouse – Patti Murin
  • Mr. Knightley – Adam Monley
  • Robert Martin – Adam Daveline
  • Miss Bates – Suzanne Grodner
  • Mr. Elton – Brian Herndon
  • Mrs. Bates, Mrs. Elton – Kelly Hutchinson
  • Mr. Woodhouse – Jerry Lanning
  • Harriet Smith – Dani Marcus
  • Mrs. Weston – Amanda Naughton
  • Mr. Weston -Don Noble
  • Jane Fairfax – Allison Spratt Pearce
  • Frank Churchill – Will Reynolds

Complete cast and creative team

© 2007 – 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

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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Review: A Sparkling Pride and Prejudice Adapation in Edmonton Charms a Fellow Janeite

Gentle readers, it may appear from time to time, that our Austen connections run far and wide, but modesty precedes us as we happily submit this review for your perusal from our dear friend and fellow Janeite Deborah Jane who attended the new stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice presented by The Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Our only regret is that we did not have the extreme pleasure of experiencing it together. Enjoy!

When the Banff Centre in Banff, Alberta and the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta  formed a partnership to create a Professional Theatre Program, their goal was to create Canada’s premiere professional theatre program for emerging professional theatre artists. The program includes a curriculum with master classes in acting, singing, voice, movement, dance, text, and script analysis by a faculty comprised of some Canada’s leading theatre artists.

A lovely production of a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice from Tom Wood, one of Canada’s most celebrated actors, directors and playwrights, was the result of the collaboration.  The world premiere of the play took place at the Citadel Theatre on August 21, 2008, opening to glowing reviews.

“Lizzy . . gets a ravishing performance from Amanda Lisman, who radiates intelligence and heart.

“The show literally revolves . . . in Bob Baker’s production, designed and dressed in glorious and lavish period detail by Leslie Frankish and lit, like gorgeous varnished oil paintings, by Bretta Gerecke.

“And in the course of Woods’s adaptation . . . Pride and Prejudice becomes delightful and absorbing, and the fortunes of Lizzy, Jane and the rest crucial to us.” – Liz Nicholls, The Edmonton Journal

The Banff Centre/Citadel partners chose to produce this adaptation because it offered so many roles for young actors, and offered a tremendous opportunity for the cast to understand the historical context and manners and master Austen’s complex language. This new adaptation also allowed the young actors to learn and employ skills such as sword play (a brief scene introducing the regiment to the neighbourhood), dancing (at the Netherfield ball), and playing and singing (performed very softly as background to dialogue).

I am happy to report that the costumes, hairstyles and music were true to the Regency period and very similar to the styles employed in the 1995 BBC production. It was a nice touch that Elizabeth and Darcy’s dance at Netherfield was performed to Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot.

The set was elaborate and intricate. A revolving floor dressed with stylized tree-like structures that were moved in and out and around the stage to allow characters to walk through woods and halls and rooms, also facilitated the movement of furniture on and off stage to create lavish sets for Longbourn, Netherfield Park, Rosings, and Pemberley.

Wood’s three hour adaptation is light, bright and sparkling and very faithful to Austen’s plot. The language was almost perfect but I cringed once. I cannot imagine Lizzy telling Charlotte Lucas that she was “besotted” by Wickham!

The cast was wonderful. In particular, Amanda Lisman as Lizzy shined. Her performance reinforced my distaste for Keira Knightley’s 2005 movie portrayal, as Lisman was everything a young Lizzy ought to be: intelligent; witty; and playful but appropriately introspective and ashamed. Her delivery of the line, “Till this moment I never knew myself ” was powerful and heart-breaking. Renowned Canadian actress Lally Cadeau who played both Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh brought all the right notes to both roles. As Mr. Darcy, Rejean Cournoyer was a great deal more than tolerable.

Overall, this a charming adaptation produced and performed with wit, skill and ingenuity and I highly recommend it if it comes to a theatre near you.

Pride and Prejudice; September 20 – October 12, 2008
Presented by The Citadel Theatre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Stage adaptation by Tim Wood

Further reading

  • Read The Citadel Theatre’s Pride and Prejudice – Edmonton Sun
  • Preview Prevue – Pride and Prejudice – Vue Weekly, Edmonton
  • Review Adapted Without Prejudice – Edmonton Journal
  • Review Romantic Comedy Sparkles in Delightful Adaptation – Edmonton Journal
  • Review Taking Pride in Ending Austen Prejudice – The Gateway, The Official Student newspaper at Univeristy of Alberta

Book-It Repertory Theatre: Persuasion Review

Image of Chiara Motley as Anne Elliot, Persuasion, Book-It Theatre, (2008)

A PERSUASIVE ADAPTATION OF AUSTEN’S CLASSIC

How eloquent could Anne Elliot have been! How eloquent, at least, were her wishes on the side of early warm attachment, and a cheerful confidence in futurity, against that over-anxious caution which seems to insult exertion and distrust Providence! She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning. The Narrator on Anne Elliot, Persuasion, Chapter 4

 

Image of Chiara Motley as Anne Elliot, Persuasion, Book-It Theatre, (2008)Eloquent is the perfect word to describe my experience at the Book-It Repertory Theatre production of the new adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, on Sunday last. The smell of the grease paint – and all that – got my heart racing again, bringing back fond memories of my many years associated with marketing of a grand opera company. Sigh. There is just no substitute for the excitement and thrill of a live production. None! So people, forget the comforts of your sofa and support your local arts organization. You won’t regret it!

Ok, off my high horse and back to the play, which the local critic of the Seattle PI thought “sneakily captivating“, and I heartily concur. Having read the novel and seen the movie adaptations, that complement was not quite a surprise to me; but I was relieved that the adaptors, Jen Taylor and Colin Bryne, had included enough of Jane Austen’s intensions so that all levels of Austen fans or non-fans could pick it up.

Image of Chiara Motley as Anne Elliot, Persuasion, Book-It Theatre, (2008)The first five minutes of any production are always a struggle for me. I am always suspect, needing to be drawn into the enchantment of the story and characters before I can be taken away into that special make-believe world of live theater. My hesitant resistance to the dialogue lingered a bit longer. Where was Jane Austen’s prose? The characters and plot were the same, but the language? I concede sincere attachment to the novel, and may be too close to be objective, – but this did disappoint.

The audience, including other members of my group from the Jane Austen web site, The Republic of Pemberely, were attentive and laughed in the right places. In fact, I had not remembered Persuasion being quite so funny, but there it was. A tragic love story that made them laugh-out-loud? Hmm? My sensibilites were perplexed. My indignation was rising.

Image of Persuasion, Book-It Repertory Theatre, (2008)I know that I am a severe critic having been warped by years of quivering over opera reviews, but I willed myself into enjoyment, and purposely set aside my magnifying glass and overlooked some the costume and stage prop blunders to focus on the acting, which was quite impressive. This is a first rate repertory theatre of seasoned and skilled professionals, aptly cast and decisively directed by Myra Platt. Chiara Motley who portrayed Anne Elliot was a lovely willowy thing; dutiful, sensitive, and patient. All the qualities that we expect in Jane Austen’s most stoic heroine.

By the time of our hero Captain Wentworth’s (John Bogar) entrance into the Musgrove household, I had forgotten my qualms about dialogue and was enthralled in the story. He Image of John Bogar as Captain Wentworth, Persuasion, Book-It Rep, (2008)was a dashing Wentworth, with a captivating stage presence. Hurrah! Actually, he had me after his first line. The voice was velvety and authoritative, and that just wrapped it up nicely for me. Here was a Wentworth worthy of our heroine pining away eight years for.

We see some surprising artistic license taken by the adaptors in respect to Anne’s pompous father Sir Walter Elliot, (Kevin McKeon), and her social climbing sister Elizabeth Elliot (Kate Czajkowski). In the novel and movie adaptations, our patience is tested by that supercilious and cynical pair of spendthrifts to the point of abhorrence, but here, they have evolved into lighter more comedic caricatures. Their dialogue plays off each other like tennis volleys, and one is reminded of the socialite banter from a Noel Coward satirical play of the 1920’s. The humor was a relief, but I fear that it lessens Anne Elliot’s pitiable situation. One finds it much easer to laugh off their condescension and snobbery, then to deal with the stark reality of her actual life with them portrayed in the novel and movies.

Image of Chiara Motley & Carol Roscoe in Persuasion, Book-It Rep, (2008)Within the talented ensemble cast, two performances were standouts in my mind, and both had plum roles to reincarnate; the dotty Mary Musgrove, (Carol Roscoe) played with great energy and comedic timing, and the tragic Captain Benwick, (Jamie Rush), sensitively played by a promising young actor whose brief dialogue I remember more for its prominent pauses, than content. This was a welcome relief after a few lost moments from previously rushed scenes.

Kudos to the creative staff and cast of a clever and effective adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most tender novels. You pierced my soul! Of note, was the attendance of members of the local chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America who had generously under-written the cost of the costumes for the production. Bravo JASNA!

Image of Ricky Coats as William Elliot, Persuasion, Book-It, Rep, (2008)The matinee performance was a sell-out, which is the best remedy for a struggling repertory company, who deserve a far better venue to perform in than the constraints of the Center House Theater at Seattle Center. Ah…the financial challenges of a nonprofit arts organization. That I don’t miss!

Persuasion runs through March 2nd and tickets are still available at (206) 216-0833, boxoffice@book-it.org, or on-line. Catch excerpts of the production and interviews of the cast here.

Update! New review from the Seattle Times theater critic who cleverly includes her critique in a letter to Jane Austen!

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