Monday, November 18, 2013
Theater review: Stolen Shakespeare Guild does Jane Austen proud with Pride and Prejudice
Check it out for an entertaining night of theater.
FORT WORTH Pride and Prejudice, as performed by the Stolen Shakespeare Guild, is what an evening at the theater should be about. The story was simple, the performances were well-crafted and the theater was engaging. The experience was delightful.
Pride and Prejudice, written by Jane Austen and adapted by Jon Jory, is a story about the prejudices of wealth and status in 19th century England and how it affects the Bennet family. The story centers on Elizabeth Bennet and how she deals with the societal issues of the day such as marriage, status, education and morality.
The set design was quaint and simply elegant. Set in a theater in the round format, the main stage consisted of six chairs that represented the sitting room at the Bennet estate. A large chaise lounge sat at one corner while a piano adorned the opposite. The back wall was exquisitely painted with a mural of a field with a tree bringing depth to the stage. Steps leading up to the mural acted as an entry way into the sitting room and also served as a platform from which the actors were able to give some narratives about different scenes or characters. The entire set was interesting and engaging and allowed unobstructed views of almost the entire stage area. However, the chaise lounge was a little difficult to see from all vantage points.
The costumes, designed by Lauren Morgan, were well-crafted and appeared to be period authentic. Even though the costumes didn’t change from day to day, the addition of hats periodically and the fast pace of the dialogue seemed to overshadow that fact.
The music direction by Chelsea Duncan added immensely to the overall 19th century English feel. The music that was played during the dance routines was well chosen and felt period authentic.
The choreography by Karen Matheny was well done. The dances at the parties didn’t seem to overpower the dialogue or the acting taking place on stage and served to enhance the overall party atmosphere. The type of music and dance appeared to be 19th century baroque and was elegantly performed.
The acting was superb and the accents were authentic and easy on the ear. Samantha Chancellor as Elizabeth Bennet was phenomenal. She performed the role with relative ease and grace. Her dialogue felt comfortable and the transition between dialogue and narrative was fluid. Chancellor’s accent was flawless and even during the stressful moments in which she was berating Mr. Darcy it never wavered. The manner in which Chancellor carried the character was both noble and approachable.
Lauren Morgan as Jane Bennet was soft spoken yet strong. Morgan exceptionally portrayed the character’s reserved yet strong, faithful persona. Morgan’s facial expressions conveyed Jane’s disappointment in Mr. Bingley moving away. While, her animated response to his return belied her secret desire to be wed.
Mary Bennet, the book-toting sister, was smartly played by Libby Hawkins Roming. Roming had a bookish aura that was pleasant and humorous. During the time that Mr. Collins was parading around the sitting room looking for a spouse, Mary was fervently following him with obvious desire. The desire and coquettish way in which Roming did this was both humorous and endearing. While the other sisters tolerated Mr. Collins with disdain, Mary Bennet would have been more than happy to spend the rest of her days as a pastor’s wife.
Mara Frumkin as Kitty Bennet and Dana Cassling as Lydia Bennet were a match made in shrieking, quirky heaven. As the youngest sisters of the Bennet house, Frumkin and Cassling spent most of their time squealing with delight over whatever drama was at hand and added a sense of humor to the play. It was difficult to determine which had the more interesting character portrayal and the most fun.
Allen Walker as Mr. Bennet and Laura Jones as Mrs. Bennet were perfectly attuned as husband and wife. Jones was superb as the doting, pushy mother trying to better her daughters’ situations by marrying them to a higher status. Walker’s whimsical way in which he walked and spoke was wonderful as the patriarchal head of the Bennet family and reluctant participant of his wife’s undertakings. Walker portrayed a real sense of exasperation when he rolled his eyes or mocked his wife with laughter as he attempted to do what was right and still please his ever higher reaching spouse.
Michael Rudd as Mr. Darcy was excellent. Rudd had both the aloofness of a wealthy aristocrat as well as at times the shy boyish charm of a man in love for the first time. Rudd was awkward and played Darcy with tension and angst as he interacted with his object of affection.
Blake Owen portrayed Mr. Bingley well and portrayed a genuine attraction to Jane Bennet through his facial expressions and the unassertive way he approached her. Owen’s accent, however, was a little weaker than the rest of the cast.
Jule Nelson Duac did a fabulous job as the pretentious snob Caroline Bingley. She played the perfect amount of better than thou attitude with a mild disdain for the Bennet family. Duac’s facial expressions and mannerisms were calibrated to Caroline’s snobbish persona. Duac had a great way of rolling her eyes and turning up her nose every time she spoke of Elizabeth Bennet that drove home the point that she did not care much for her.
One of the highlights of the play was Shane Hurst as Mr. Collins. Hurst did an outstanding job portraying the pastor. It was difficult to decide whether the pastor was supposed to be lecherous or threatening but either way Hurst did a marvelous job. The audience couldn’t help but laugh every time he made an appearance on stage. The lascivious way in which he approached Jane and Elizabeth Bennet was both disturbing and inspired. When Hurst would enter the sitting room he would sweep in with a grand gesture and high pitched wanton discourse on why he wanted to marry. He would hover Elizabeth which sent ripples of disgust through the sitting room. Hurst was truly on his game as an actor. He added a humorous twist to the wanton pastor.
Pride and Prejudice is considered to be a classic, and Stolen Shakespeare Guild not only achieves but surpasses a classical rendition of it. The atmosphere, costuming, music and dialogue all coalesced into an entertaining performance. The play was lighthearted and whimsical with a happy ending for all. This performance was truly a joy to behold.
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