Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review: (Calgary) Pride and Prejudice

Poster art

Meeting Pride and Prejudice
by Joe Vermeulen
I suppose as a theatre and arts nerd I should probably be embarrassed that I have never been exposed to Pride and Prejudice before tonight. Sure I am familiar with the loosely adapted musical based on the same story “I Love You Because”, but I have never actually encountered the real thing. Well, Theatre Calgary sure put that right.
For those who are unfamiliar with the story I will summarize its beginning. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters are thrilled to learn that their new neighbor is both rich and young (not to mention single). After meeting the family Mr. Bingley, the new neighbor, throws a ball to meet the town. Soon it becomes clear that the eldest daughter Jane and Mr. Bingley are becoming an item. Offput by this, his friend Mr. Darcy and his sister Caroline contrive a way to draw him back to the city. In the process of doing this, Mr. Darcy scorns and insults Elizabeth, the second daughter...
each performer brought a life to each that was unique enough that I did not notice the double casting until I saw it in the programme
Shannon Taylor plays a charming and strong Elizabeth Bennet. She captures the internal struggle of one who has her preconceived notions about someone reversed perfectly. In addition to the serious parts of the role, her comic timing worked wonderfully with the ensemble. Likewise, Tyrell Crews makes Mr. Darcy wonderfully unlikeable for the opening of the play. Yet, as he and Elizabeth grow close, softens and becomes tender with perfection. Allan Morgan and Elizabeth Stepkowski Tarhan as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet had excellent chemistry and comic timing. They captivated the audience's attention and had them laughing as well. When Lydia, the youngest daughter elopes, though, the heartache and disappointment they share is palpable.
The remainder of the ensemble was likewise wonderful and comic, and played a wide variety of roles. From servants to double casting for major roles, each performer brought a life to each that was unique enough that I did not notice the double casting until I saw it in the programme.
Patrick Clark’s set and costume design were inspired. The set is a pile of letters, with pages forming scattered walls and flowers. At first I was a bit surprised at the all white set, but as soon as Jock Munro’s lighting hit, it became instantly perfect. The use of colour in the lighting brought the set to life, be it a drawing room, a garden or outside near a river.
It appeared to me that the cast was not mic’ed, which led to some difficulty hearing them when they were facing upstage. Other than the occasional quiet line however, Dennis Garnhum’s staging was extremely effective. One scene that I quite liked was when Mr. Collins first came to call, when the cast were positioned well upstage surrounding a table. Instead of seating the cast only on the upstage side of the table, levels and angles were used to reveal the cast. This worked exceptionally well, and yet still looked like something you would see in a real house as conversations get heated.
This is the world première of this new adaptation of the novel. I found the writing exceedingly clever. It is touching and funny in all the right places.
This show is a wonderful introduction to the works of Jane Austen for those, like me, new to them. And for those who know the books well, this excellent adaptation is also sure to please.
This production is co-produced with the National Arts Center whose mandate features cast and designers from all across Canada. It is always wonderful to see this, and is a great way for the theatre communities to build professional relationships. The co-production is also going on to Ottawa over the holiday season, so if you happen to be in Ottawa after the show closes here, be sure to catch it.  

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this thoughtful review. My husband and I are considering getting tickets to this production. Based upon the single scene from the play that is available on YouTube, we had decided aginst it, but your comments on the excellence of the lighting and staging have made us reconsider. The YouTube version, we realized, would not present the subtleties and nuances of the production that you mention. Thank you again.


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