Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Pride and Prejudice - Hartford Stage

Playwright Kate Hamill’s rom-com version of the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice has been one of the most produced plays in the country over the last few years.  It has been an area favorite too, receiving stagings at the Long Wharf Theatre in Fall 2019 and Playhouse on Park in Spring 2020. 


The cast of Pride and PrejudicePhoto by T. Charles Erickson.

The latest incarnation runs through November 5 at Hartford Stage.  The show is a screwball mash-up that includes gender swapping roles and many of the performers playing multiple characters.  It’s understandable why this version of Pride and Prejudice has been so popular.  Hamill satisfies ardent fans by staying faithful to the book. In addition, she also delivers a spirited work with a mischievous streak to entertain audience members not familiar with the source material and who may want a bit more zing in their theater.


Renata Eastlick, Carman Lacivita and Anne Scurria in Pride and Prejudice. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

As with the book, the play revolves around the Bennet family—mother, father and their four daughters--Jane, the family beauty; Mary, the plain, perpetually gloomy sister; Lizzy, independent-minded and strong-willed; and Lydia, young and impetuous.  Mrs. Bennet’s sole purpose in life is to find her daughters suitable husbands, both to aid the family’s fortunes as well as ensure happiness for each young woman.  A succession of men enters their lives to varying degrees of success, but the focus centers on Lizzy and the enigmatic Mr. Darcy.  Their initial encounter, reserved and cool, with ups and downs that confound and embarrass, develops into a relationship that becomes rooted in mutual admiration and, dare I say, love.


Zoë Kim, Madeleine Barker.Lana Young and Renata Eastlick in Pride and Prejudice. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Through comedic renderings and irreverent charm, Ms. Hamill preserves the essence of the novel - the pride individuals foster upon themselves and the prejudices people in 19th century England had towards those deemed at a lower social and economic standing.  Director Tatyana-Marie Carlo keeps the pacing up tempo and the character transitions quick.  She adds a number of enjoyable flourishes.  One is the use of a mannequin, dressed as a servant, announcing the entrances of characters.  Another, in homage to the Mel Brooks film, Young Frankenstein, is a foghorn blaring anytime the name Lady Catherine is announced (think Frau Blucher from the movie).

Ms. Carlo properly steers the show to a more poignant, romantic direction at the play’s conclusion.  No gimmicks.  No goofiness.  Just the final adoration between two lovers.


María Gabriela González and Zoë Kim in Pride and Prejudice. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

The acting troupe, playing on Sara Brown’s minimal, yet sumptuous set, is more then up to the challenge in presenting the characters in an over-the-top manner.  Interestingly, the two leads, Renata Eastlick as Lizzy and Carman Lacivita as Mr. Darcy, play their roles straight, with only the occasional embellishment.  Ms. Eastlick is splendid as the principled, outspoken Lizzy Bennet who, as the story progresses, becomes more mellow and understanding to others and to her own feelings.  Anne Scurria is marvelous in the dual roles of the reserved, practical Mr. Bennet and the misunderstood Charlotte Lucas.  Lana Young is a dynamo as Mrs. Bennet.  Her pleadings, whimpering, and fatalistic mindset can be hilarious, but sometimes overwhelm the other actors in her vicinity. 

Carman Lacivita’s Mr. Darcy is properly aloof, proud, and awkward among the ladies. Madeleine Barker’s Mary is somewhat overly strange with her glowering expressions and guttural utterances.  Zoё Kim imbues Lydia with a devil-may-care view of life and spunkiness. Sergio Mauritz Ang is fine in his multiple roles and María Gabriela González is satisfying as Jane and a real spectral presence as Miss de Bourgh.

Carman Lacivita and Renata Eastlick in Pride and Prejudice. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Haydee Zelideth has created an array of diverse period costumes that take in the spirit of the production.  Aja M. Jackson provides a festive Lighting Design.  Shura Baryshnikov incorporates bursts of choreographic merriment and Daniel Baker & Co. has fashioned some good-humored original music for the production.


Pride and Prejudice, playing at Hartford Stage through November 5.  Click here for dates, times and ticket information.

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