Saturday, May 4, 2019

WOBT: "Pride and Prejudice"

The Way Off Broadway Theatre in Prattville is playing to enthusiastic full houses with their pleasant  production of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Adapted by Jane Kendall from Austen's 1813 romantic novel, this version is true to its major plot elements, and director Pamela Trammell keeps her acting company focused on storytelling and character relationships for the two hours running time.

As one of the world's literary masterpieces, and with many stage and film adaptations to secure its popularity, Pride and Prejudice is familiar territory. We are taken to early Nineteenth Century England, where melodramatic Mrs. Bennet [Catherine Barlow] is most concerned with finding good husbands for her five daughters, especially since Mr. Bennet's [Will Skelton] inheritance can't be passed on to them; his cousin Mr. Collins [Michael Mims] would take over the estate on Bennet's death.

With the arrival of wealthy and charming Charles Bingley [David Shelnutt] and his sister Caroline [Emma Crockett] to the neighborhood, Mrs. Bennet schemes to make a match with eldest daughter Jane [Sarah Staton]. Accompanying Bingley is the moody and aloof Mr. Darcy [Josh Williams], who immediately seems to insult the Bennets, much to the ire of second daughter, feisty Elizabeth [Lauren Norris]. -- And the younger daughters: bookish Mary [Kenna Shields] remains aloof, and giddy Catherine [Rebecca Schannep] and Lydia [Cadence Potter] are more concerned with parties and soldiers in uniform, particularly the dashing Mr. Wickham [Josiah Lamb] who isn't what he seems.

When Elizabeth refuses Mr. Collins's marriage proposal, he turns to Charlotte Lucas [Ameila Robbins] whose mother Lady Lucas [Diane Garfield] is a social climbing gossip.

Many misunderstandings and confusions about people's intentions ensue, and messages are delivered by household servant Hill [Abigail Bonebrake]; but the result is well known, and as "opposites attract", it is clear that Elizabeth and Darcy will be together by the end, despite the interference of Lady Catherine de Bourgh [Pamela Barnes],  as will Bingley and Jane.

The ensemble handle their roles with conviction and admirable English accents; lovely period costumes by Dani Porter and her team enhance their behaviors and provide an appropriate look to the surroundings. And though some blocking upstaged important action and the pace needed some variety, and it sugar-coated the relationship between Lydia and Mr. Wickham, this production of Pride and Prejudice is an endearing romantic foray into the Nineteenth Century. Well done.