Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Elizabeth-Darcy (Fringe)

When Even the Venue is Lovely in a Role
by Ramya Jegatheesan

A roving play. The historic Campbell House. Jane Austen. And two women gender-bending in all kinds of delightful ways.  Who says women cannot play men? And with panache to spare. This is Burt and Werneburg’s Elizabeth-Darcy

Here, expect the unexpected. You will be looked at and instructed to walk “like ladies not elephants”. You will rush from room to room pursuing the action. It is a little bit of Pride and Prejudice voyeurism; as if you are somewhere you should not be, but have always wanted to be. Yes, you will be standing. Yes, the scenes jump too quickly. Yes, there are scenes missing (gasp!), and the actors speed through their lines. But watching Kate Werneburg’s shuffling Mr. Collins lean-in uncomfortably close to Hallie Burt’s Elizabeth as he wonders whether her rejection is not a way of “increasing [his] love by suspense,” now that is priceless.

Burt and Werneburg are entertaining shifters. With a hunch of the back or a tilt of the chin or a quick tuck in of a dress to create the look of a dress coat complete with coat tails, they brought to life 14 different characters between them and they did it with verve and moxie. However, I cannot help but imagine how a fuller cast might have staged this play. 

Not to be forgotten, Campbell House was a character in its own right. Kudos to the historic museum in its Fringe period drama debut. It was lovely in its role, and I hope to see it used again.

Jane Austen fans, this play will amuse you. It will entertain you. It is a fresh and innovative take on a beloved classic. Alas, there is no Colin Firth emerging from a lake in breeches and a clinging wet white shirt, but really how many times can you watch that adaptation before you need to try something new? Try this. 

Elizabeth - Darcy is at the Toronto Fringe

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