Fast food for hungry lit-lovers
Pride and Prejudice
Michael Stevenson directs Sacramento Theatre Company’s production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice like an Evelyn Wood speed-reading demonstration. Words and words and more words fly by in a flurry, and even if you miss some here and there, you get the gist of it.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen’s most popular novel, and STC’s adaptation by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan turns the Regency-era tale of economics and class distinctions wrapped around a love story into a veritable rom-com. Its romantic center is surrounded by broad comedy. John Lamb gives a master class in physical comedy as Mr. Collins, a man of the cloth who is stitched a little too stiffly. The whole play’s much funnier than you’d expect Austen to be.
The play revolves around the Bennet family (long-suffering Matt K. Miller as Mr. Bennet and long-winded Jamie Jones as Mrs. Bennet) and their five unmarried daughters. The family’s financial future is tenuous, since they stand to lose their home when Mr. Bennet dies. Hence, there is some urgency to marry off one or more of the girls to a man of wealth and status. Enter Mr. Bingley (Matt Surges), a single man worth a fortune, and his friend, Mr. Darcy (Ryan Snyder), who is even richer.
The two older Bennet babes—Jane (the fetching Rebecca Scott) and Elizabeth (Brittni Barger, who delivers a smart, unfussy performance)—become the centers of attention, and Jane and Mr. Bingley seem happily matched. But the pairing of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is far less sure. They exude genuine disdain for one another, but the chemistry between the characters and the sexual spark between the actors assure a happy ending somewhere down the road.
It’s a briskly paced production that moves with real efficiency. Stevenson’s large cast is strong, top and bottom. Anna Katharine Mantz’s singular set design serves all scenes equally well, and Jessica Minnihan’s fine costumes are both flouncy and simple and stately.