Saturday, December 7, 2019
Pride and Prejudice at Park Square is Thrilling and Energetic
Pride and Prejudice, as adapted by Kate Hamil, directed by Lisa Channer from a novel by Jane Austen, is at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul through December 22nd.
“You are my favorite daughter!”
Mrs. Bennett (George Keller) exclaimed several times when any of her daughters were even close to getting married. Mrs. Bennett’s desire to have her daughters hitched and their many failed attempts counteract with her tantrums and fits of despair which are loud as ever as she cries throughout a scene.
Mr. Bennet (Alex Galick) is the aloof father who puts up with her many qualms, as he says “Madam, I highly respect your nerves-I’ve been acquainted with them for nearly twenty years.”
Mrs. Bennett does not approve of daughter, Elizabeth, and her attitude and interaction with Mr. Darcy, leading her to humiliate Lizzie by spanking her at the ball. The tension between them provides a balance to the slapstick physical comedy of the rest of the cast. Charlotte (Alex Gallick) says this to Elizabeth after Mr. Darcy characterized her mother harshly, “You must admit that your mother is rather exceptional.” A couple times, lights were cast down on both Darcy and Elizabeth as if they were in a boxing match and this helped foreshadow a standoff to come.
Gender reversals and double castings are obvious in Kate Hamil’s rendition, as male characters wear bonnets and their dresses are tied around them with strings, easy for them transition between roles. Neal Beckman’s drag take on Mary Bennett is too funny as he coughs regularly and sneers at characters and their ignorant attempts at the mating game. During many of his scenes, he stoops over and tramples about the stage as if he’s an old woman. Sometimes he plays both Mary and Mr. Bingley within the same scene. His role as Mr. Bingley is even more pronounced as he's a highly energetic character who’s after Jane Bennet and is bossed around as if he was Darcy’s lap dog. The characters he plays mocks feminine and masculine roles, unapologetically.
Lady Catherine's (Sara Richardson) role is also doubled as Richardson plays Jane. And when Lady Catherine comes to admonish Darcy for pursuing Elizabeth, a simple bonnet and shawl is held up by an actor so that the character can move under the bonnet and take on her role. This unexpected role reversal has the audience roaring in laughter.
A bit of the mystery of theater is left out, as stage sets align the left and right wings without a curtain in front of them. This is done purposeful so actors can quickly get what they need and it only adds to the humor as one of the rolling beds is pushed to the side with the actor still on it, so that the next scene can begin.
Lots of fast paced movements, including jumps and ball tosses make the performance highly energetic. When I look back at Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice (2005), the Bennet sisters did not stand out like the ones in this play. The energy and acting is what I believe made this play fantastic. Come and feel the angst of this beloved Jane Austen story.
Runs through Dec 22nd. Tickets at https://parksquaretheatre.org/box-office/current-and-upcoming-shows/