Lizzy Bennet (Kjerstine Anderson) charges through a country ball. Photo credit: Seattle Repertory Theatre
I am a Jane Austen power user. I’ve read the books, taken a class, owned the action figure. So when I went to Wednesday’s showing of “Pride and Prejudice” at the Seattle Rep I didn’t expect to learn anything. I knew this story… didn’t I?
The beauty of playwright Kate Hamill’s adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” is that it’s not only about Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Never fear — the famous lovebirds get plenty of stage time but refreshingly, so do the supporting characters.
In shining the spotlight on these lesser discussed characters, Hamill teases out what makes them them. Mrs. Bennet’s single mindedness to marry off her daughters transforms into military precision complete with whistle. Mr. Bingley’s good-humored nature reveals a puppy-like devotion as funny as it is revelatory. Lydia’s good-time girl habits take on new depth as the only way she knows to make her family proud.
Those nuances result in a new take on an old tale. Director Amanda Dehnert uses Hamill’s script to spin a story we think we know. In doing so, we find new reasons to love it. Now add a dynamic and talented cast — with many of the actors playing several roles, sometimes at once — and you get a madcap, must-see production.
Be warned: This version isn’t for purists — if you didn’t already pick that up from the boxing gloves on the promotional poster. While the on-stage garb is 19th century, the music (The Beatles play during intermission), the props (The Stranger makes an appearance on stage) and the general vibe are not. Think of movies like 2001’s “A Knight’s Tale,” which added modern touches to a period piece (Bowie’s “Golden Years” mid-medieval dance) to tell a more relevant tale.
And that’s what makes the Rep’s “Pride and Prejudice” perfect for your budding Austen buff. The two hour, 25 minute performance distills a book written more than 200 years ago down to the elements that make it timeless. In doing so, those who already love it find new fodder for their fandom. And those who are not as familiar will realize that this Jane Austen lady? She really knew her stuff.
If you go...
Length: Two hours and 25 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
Tip: Upcoming nights include closed captions, audio described and sign interpreted performances as well as a couple performances with post-play discussions and a costume event. Also, check out the lobby pre-show for some handy historical reading.