Jane Austin's most popular novel centers on the Bennet family in early 19th century England - five daughters of marriageable age, an exasperated father, and a mother whose only goal is to see her daughters married and taken care of, since none of them can inherit their father's estate under English law. Wealthy gentlemen arrive in the country, and the Bennets are all aflutter. Balls, witty repartee, misunderstandings, scandals, and reconciliations continue for two hours, in a story I'm sure most of you are familiar with (if not - see Wiki). This adaptation by Simon Reade (a different one than they used 10 years ago) stays pretty faithful to the story as I remember it, condensing it nicely for the stage and keeping much of Austin's prose in the form of letters that are read by both the sender and recipient.
|Ashley Rose Montondo|
and Vincent Kartheiser
as Elizabeth and Darcy
The set is dominated by a gorgeous and fascinating moving showpiece (set design by Alexander Dodge). The floor of the thrust stage is cut into concentric circles that rotate in opposite direction, the outer supporting a set of huge stately white columns, the inner a wall with three glass doors. As the circles spin in opposite directions, the set pieces are arranged in seemingly infinite combinations to represent various indoor and outdoor settings. The stairs around the familiar thrust stage are covered with green grass, with green topiary adorning the back of the stage. The only downfall of this relatively simple set is that it's difficult to see the difference between the Bennet's modest home and the more extravagant homes of the Darcys and Bingleys, but that's what the imagination is for. The costumes, hair, make-up, etc. are of course stunning; I expect no less at the Guthrie. Adding a little visual action to the drama, Joe Chvala has choreographed some charming English country dances. I was particularly impressed that Darcy and Elizabeth carry on a complete conversation while effortlessly performing the steps of an intricate dance.
Pride and Prejudice is a great choice to close the Guthrie's landmark season. A classic and well-loved story; a cast that features Guthrie vets, new young local talent, and one of Minnesota's famous sons; and gorgeous production values. I found it to be quite charming.
*I have to admit, when Vincent Kartheiser was announced as Mr. Darcy, I was very excited. You see, before I was a theater junkie, I was a TV junkie, and I still am. I believe Man Men to be the highest form of the art that television can be. And I love it when my fellow Minnesotans make it big on the national scene and then come home to share their gifts. I met Vincent a few weeks ago at the Guthrie's 50th Anniversary Gala and made a blithering idiot of myself, so in shock I was to see him live and in person instead of on my TV screen in 60s period garb. It took a minute to get used to him in a different role, but I saw no traces of Pete Campbell in Mr. Darcy. He's in a position of success where he has many choices before him, and the fact that he chose to do a play in his hometown is a pretty cool thing.