To paraphrase Jane Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that productions at D’Youville Kavinoky Professional Theatre are gorgeously staged and thoroughly enjoyable.”
Well, that’s what this affirmed Janeite thinks about Kate Hamill’s adaptation of the iconic novel Pride & Prejudice on stage now to March 27.
While Hamill took some liberties, they were noble and with purpose to advance the storyline admirably for the stage. Director Kristen Tripp Kelley is no stranger to Austen or Hamill: back in 2019, she was a Dashwood sister in Irish Classical Theatre Company’s production of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. She also cast S&S alumni Ben Michael Moran and Renee Landrigan and they were fine choices indeed.
If you yawned through your high school assignment to read the book – only to delight in the British TV series in 1995 (two words: Colin Firth) – which prompted you to read the book again and love every smartly crafted sentence, you will enjoy it all again on stage. Yes, it’s abbreviated but the most delicious moments are here. Moran is wonderfully smug as Mr. Darcy, the proud man who’s in want of a wife who is not his cousin. Landrigan is double cast as Lydia, the silly youngest sister of the Bennet clan and the haughty Lady Catherine DeBourgh. There’s other clever double, n’igh triple, casting here, too. Lissette is both the winsome Jane Bennet and Miss DeBourgh (under layers of black lace). Diane DeBernardo is the easily vexed Mrs. Bennet and the drole servant. Chris Brandjes is the calm father Mr. Bennet and the eager-to-marry Charlotte Lucas. Jake Albarella is Darcy’s best friend Mr. Bingley and Bennet sister Mary. Jake Hayes brings it as creepy Mr. Collins, slightly dodgy Mr. Wickham and Miss Bingley. Yes, there’s some fine gender-bending here and these three actors carry it off superbly. Lest we forget the equally proud Elizabeth Bennet, charmingly played by Gabriella McKinley.
The whole experience is Regency literature come to life. David King’s set is elegant and complements without competing with theatre’s design. Lindsay Salamone’s costumes are exquisite with rich colors and textures you can see at the back of the house. Robert Cooke choreographs some lovely reels and other period dances to contemporary music played in an early 19th century style. Yes, Journey never sounded so prim and proper. The musicians aren’t identified in the program, but this touch was a delightful aural surprise.
Even if you don’t lock into the plot (in brief, girls must marry well to save the family’s fate and it’s a mother’s duty make perfect matches her full time raison d’etre), there’s a lot to enjoy here, particularly Albarella, Hayes, and Brandjes in their multiple roles. After missing so much live theatre the past couple years, it’s just good to relax and laugh in this luscious house again.
Pride & Prejudice runs about two hours with a 15-minute intermission. Find details and tickets at www.kavinokytheatre.com.