"Pride and Prejudice" adaptation dazzles audience

By Carolyn Williams

Staff Writer

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” So begins Jane Austen’s best-loved novel, “Pride and Prejudice,” adapted for the stage and performed here at the University this homecoming weekend. For those little acquainted with the plot, here’s a brief overview.

Elizabeth Bennet is the quick-witted second of five sisters living in Regency, England. Her father’s estate is entailed away from his female descendants, who are, as such, faced with the daunting task of marrying well with “little but our charms to recommend us.” When a wealthy young gentleman moves into town, their incorrigible mother decides that one of them must marry him. This man, the amiable Mr. Bingley, brings along his best friend, the seemingly arrogant and slightly mysterious Mr. Darcy. While Bingley takes a keen interest in the eldest Miss Bennet, Jane, who happily returns his affections, Darcy quickly earns the disapproval of Elizabeth. Their relationship, however, soon develops in divergent directions, and both find themselves questioning whether their initial impressions of the other were perhaps mistaken after all. Fittingly, the original working title for the novel was “First Impressions,” and Austen’s novel of manners is close to the hearts of those who have read the original text, or who have seen any of the many film versions.

“It’s a fairly faithful rendition of the beloved classic which channels the BBC ‘Pride and Prejudice’ successfully and enjoyably,” Kate Wilsterman ’14 said of the adaptation.

Director Anjalee Hutchinson’s interpretation of the novel is enhanced by a beautiful set, numerous carefully choreographed dance sequences and diligently maintained British accents. The book’s narrative style is simulated by the Bennet sisters addressing the audience, giving their “interpretation” of background information, thereby including necessary details which would otherwise be lost in translation between the mediums of text and stage.

Starring as our lovers are theatre and psychology major Katharina Schmidt ’13, as Elizabeth, and theatre major Banner White ’14 as Darcy. Aside from reading the novel, the two prepared for the parts by utilizing Chekhov-based styles of method acting, which rely heavily on physicality and expression, and actually were forced to stay apart from each other outside of rehearsal for much of the process of putting the play together.

“When we weren’t allowed to talk to each other, we wrote letters to each other as Elizabeth and Darcy, and snuck them to each other in our classes, which was a lot of fun,” White said.

As to the magnitude of playing one of English literature’s favorite pairs of lovers, Schmidt said, “Of course it was intimidating. The toughest part about playing these characters was that everyone knows them. It’s a lot of pressure to try to do justice to Austen.” To get into character as Darcy, White watched numerous romantic comedies, and said he didn’t quite feel the full weight of the role immediately.

“I don’t know if it added or took away from the process that we both found a lot of ourselves in our characters. The magnitude of the role in English-speaking culture didn’t really hit me until later. I rolled with it, but to be compared to actors such as Colin Firth and Laurence Olivier is intense.”

Aside from the superb leads, whose onstage chemistry will please all Elizabeth and Darcy fans, the play is really made excellent with the help of the supporting leads, notably Eve Carlson ’12, for her dead-on interpretation of the most mortifying mother of all time, Mrs. Bennet; Emily Hooper ’14 as the haughty and cruel Caroline Bingley; Molly Davis ’14 as the irrepressible Lydia Bennet; and Matt Dranzik ’13 as the always affable Mr. Bingley.

This interpretation of “Pride and Prejudice” is tastefully done, with a fresh cast, but at the end of the day it’s the same great story we all love, as good the first time as the 20th.

“The play was extremely well done, very well acted, I highly recommend seeing it,” Emily Conners ’14 said.

Some of the play’s themes are relevant to the University’s current environment, as well as the modern world at large. “I think an overarching goal of our production is to remember what it’s like to have romance. As we’ve been frequently reminded thanks to the campus climate report, Bucknell is more of a “hook-up culture” than not, and I want to see romance brought back. That’s part of what makes this so fun, reviving a completely different world. I think what we hope to leave everyone who sees the play with a longing for the romance and flirtation which is so prevalent in Jane Austen’s work,” Dranzik said.

“Pride and Prejudice” will be performed October 21-24. Performances are at 8 p.m. in Harvey M. Powers Theatre on Friday, Saturday and Monday, wiht a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students, seniors (over 62) and youths (under 18).

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