“We are all fools in love.” Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice
Between Brian D. Zelinski’s minimalistic direction and Jon Jory’s forward adaptation, SummerStage presents a fresh take on Jane Austen’s time-honored tale of romance through the lens of hearsay and stubbornness.
Victoria Hudziak and Paige Bourne in Pride & Prejudice.
Zelinski has gathered a reputable selection of local talent; with Victoria Hudziak and Jj Gatesman as the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet and the prideful Mr. Darcy (respectively), audiences are in for a seasoned treat. Hudziak is the perfect actress to shoulder such a hefty role. Following her long-winded role of Dorine in Tartuffe, Hudziak reveals her vulnarable side without straying from the ever-forthright nature of one of literature’s favored heroines, Elizabeth Bennet.
Jj Gatesman and company of Pride & Prejudice.
Gatesman, while sometimes a caricature of pride, is at his best as Darcy softens into his humanized, humbled role in his own household. Together, Hudziak and Gatesman expertly paint the reluctant romance of Bennet and Darcy.
Company of Pride & Prejudice.
Featuring a sizable cast of 15, the performance is strengthened by the vibrant supporting cast. In the role of Darcy’s childhood acquaintance and lifelong sworn enemy George Wickham, Zachary Klahn brings boy-next-door charm. SummerStage regulars may recognize this demeanor from his role as Laurie in the last season’s production of Little Women. However, Klahn shows significant growth in maturity this season, and as truths are uncovered, his Wickham transitions into a nuanced portrayal of ulterior motive.
The Bennet household is run by patriarch Mr. Bennet (William Molitor) and his whimsical counterpart, Mrs. Bennet (Donna Daniels). The duo play effortlessly off of each others’ contrasting presence, and Daniels’ excitable manner is a surprising balance to Molitor’s sardonic delivery. As the youngest three siblings, Mary (Paige Bourne), Kitty (Sarah Denke Havey), and Lydia (Mary Jensik) keep the story moving along through gentle sisterly banter. Jensik’s narrations provide particular life to the lengthy story. Eldest sibling Jane (Deanna Strasse) is tender throughout. Sweet and genuine, Strasse plays is a natural foil to Hudziak’s brassy Elizabeth.
With a set entirely of protruding black walls and lined up chairs, it takes a bit of imagination to suspend disbelief and enter Hertfordshire, England. Christopher Kurtz's scenic design spares all extravagance of the era, leaving Claire Tidwell’s elaborate costumes somewhat out of place. As the actors take residence, though, the space is thoroughly filled, and attention is drawn entirely to the story they tell, rather than their surroundings.
For long-time Austen fans, Zelinski brings the zest and personality of the initial piece to fruition. For those brand new to Pride & Prejudice, Jory’s adaptation shaves off all unnecessary wordiness and serves a fast, clear interpretation that is best suited for a modern audience. For all theatregoers, Pride & Prejudice is a heartwarming exploration of the human condition, and the obstacles one trips upon or overleaps on the path towards love.