By Lynn Geyer
Jane Austin was ahead of her time – a modern woman before there were modern women. She wrote “Pride and Prejudice” in 1813, partly to laugh at the folly of class distinctions – and readers of her classic story, now in play form, are laughing still.
Very basically, this is the story of the family Bennet with five marriageable daughters, and Mrs. Bennet, their over anxious mother conniving for a financially secure match for each. Mr. Bennet is more interested in his books than his wife’s social climbing and tries to stay out of her way.
Eldest daughter, Jane, is smitten by a young gentleman of property, Mr. Bingley, and he with her. Our heroine, Elizabeth, more of her father’s daughter, is somewhat attracted to a wealthy but snobbish Mr. Darcy, who knows his station is far superior to hers.
In time, Elizabeth is attracted to Mr. Wickham about the same time Darcy realizes his feelings for Elizabeth. There is an impediment in Jane’s relationship to Bingley, caused by Darcy; Jane is distraught; Elizabeth hates Darcy; younger sister Lydia runs away with Wickham; Mrs. Bennet has the vapors; Mr. Bennet returns to his books; Darcy comes to the aid of the run-away couple; Elizabeth learns of his aid; and in three hours (including intermission) – all’s well that ends well!
Austin’s love story was adapted for the stage by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan. The Lakewood Playhouse production is directed by Casi Wilkerson.
In this case, “directed” seems too simple a word to describe the involvement Wilkerson has with this production. For, not only has Wilkerson directed the show, she has choreographed each scene so perfectly and so exactly the cast seems to float just above the stage in an almost dream-like atmosphere.
It is amazing to see the servants waltz onto Scenic Designer Blake R. York’s “non-set” to change one or more of the half-dozen chairs adorning it or move the reception table from one spot to the other to show the change of location.
Frances Rankos’ costume design is perfect for the era. Nena Curley and Wilkerson did the sound design, which only serves to compliment the actors.
Niclas R. Olson designed the outstanding lights which he deftly uses to show the arduous passage of time during a character’s boring speech.
There are few props in the show – mime is the key. The tray the servants offer filled with non-existing crystal wine goblets are mimed by the cast. When the young ladies sit at the imaginary pianos and prepare to play, they mime the finger movements to match the recorder music so perfectly the actors must really know how to play those notes.
Kudos to Wilkerson for her exemplary guidance of her cast to the understanding of their characters and recreating their individual “stations” in life.
The acting crew consists of Rebecca Lea McCarthy, who also plays housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds; Connor Tibke, also Fitzwilliam and Capt. Carter; Joshua Dansby, Mr. Denny, as well; and Alexis Collins and Alyshia Collins. It is hard to single out one of this group as better than the others, however, McCarthy’s reactions to all around her are notable.
Katelyn Hoffman primly plays Charlotte Lucas, the young lady who weds Elizabeth’s previous suitor; Virginia Yanoff proudly plays her mother, Lady Lucas. Mason Quinn is a gallant Mr. Wickham. Sydney Payne doubles as the love-wounded Georgiana Darcy and the sickly Anne DeBurgh doing a good job in both roles.
James Wrede is wonderful as Sir William Lucas – he brings the boisterous character to life; Wrede does the same to his second part as cousin Mr. Gardiner – a fine portrayal of characters. Kat Hayes is quite good as his dutiful wife, Mrs. Gardiner.
Lee Ryan plays the illustrious Lady Catherine DeBurgh with all the haughtiness and arrogance the role deserves.
Tony Onorati is suitably smitten with Jane as Mr. Bingley; the love light in his eyes shines through each time he sees her.
Annie Coleman is his sister Caroline Bingley. Coleman plays her as the upper crust of the snob you love to hate with disdain for all lowly creatures beneath her – quite nicely nasty.
Christa Knickerbocker is the middle Bennet sister, Mary. Knickerbocker is charming in her puritanical portrayal of the plain sister showing small hopes of finding a match.
Heather Smith is Kitty Bennet and Olivia Barry is Lydia Bennet, the youngest of the brood. These two mirror each other, Smith taking Barry’s lead. They both behave like the youngsters they are cast to be – like teenaged girls jumping with joy or pretending to be mature beyond their years.
Elena Easley is ethereal as Jane Bennet; the actor portray the other half of the lovers as quietly eager and ready for love, yet just reticent enough to remain a lady.
Jacob Tice is the aloof Mr. Darcy. Tice knows Darcy is so far superior to the lowly Bennet family, he has every right to snobbishly ignore them – until he realizes he has fallen in love with Elizabeth – thin Tice changes his character appropriately to as love-smitten as his friend Bingley.
Rachael Boyer is the most proper Elizabeth Bennet. Boyer plays Lizzie as the bright young woman who knows her true worth no matter how little the members of higher stations look down upon her. Boyer retains her composure and dignity at all times, proving her interpretation of the character.
Paul Richter is Mr. Collins, Elizabeth’s thwarted suitor. Richter has developed his character with meticulous care from his Pickwickian-type stance to the pasted spit-curls which ring his face. This boring character proves to be one of the best highlights of the production.
Steve Tarry is Mr. Bennet – the ever-patient, somewhat distracted father of the hoard. Tarry is excellent as the bored-with-the-whole-thing head of the female household.
Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson is Mrs. Bennet – the extreme opposite of her longsuffering husband. Ferguson attacks the stage with such vim, vigor and verve she is appears uncontainable. However, it is quite evident that this competent actress is in complete control of her character.
“Pride and Prejudice” continues at The Lakewood Playhouse in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center, next to the Pierce Transit Depot, through December 1 Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. There is a Pay-What-You-Can night scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday, November 14 and an Actor’s Benefit performance at the same time Thursday, November 21.
For reservations or more information, call the box office at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
Come to The Lakewood Playhouse to help celebrate the 200th birthday of Jane Austin’s “Pride and Prejudice.” You’ll learn to love the classics and realize how so little has changed in the past 200 years – especially when it come to love.