Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas’ production of “Pride & Prejudice,” adapted by Kate Hamill, runs through Saturday, Feb. 8 at the Dupree Theater, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd. in Irving and is the second “Pride & Prejudice” show in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in January following Shakespeare Dallas’ production of Jon Jory’s adaptation.
There are easily a hundred adaptations or TV episodes on IMDB.com as well, so why is this story so popular? On some level, it seems to be a bit “Romeo and Juliet” meets “Cinderella,” in that there are star-crossed lovers, there is someone (maybe several) who appear less than they are until we find out they are more and the original novel by Jane Austen is from that period just before the industrial revolution, which we have (for some reason) continued to romanticize.
Another reason, though a bit lacking in this production (yet so clear from the novel) is that Jane Austen is really funny. I dare you to get through the first five pages of the novel without laughing out loud. And while there were a few chuckles during this production, the comedic timing of most of the cast was a bit off. I think part of this was the choice to try to do the lines in a British accent, but it seemed that most of the cast was thinking too much about the accent and not enough about what their fellow actors were doing.
I excuse Octavia Y. Thomas from this criticism, as she was the standout in the show in terms of her presence and timing playing both Mr. Bennet and Charlotte. Olivia Cinquepalmi as Jane and Miss DeBourgh also showed some definite talent, but these two are not the main character of the play. That rests with Sara Rashelle as Lizzy, who’s romance with Mr. Darcy is at the center of the story. Ms. Rashelle’s performance was very frustrating at times as I felt she had the ability to really dig into this character and show her range, but it felt like she also fell victim to overthinking the accent. Now to her and the entire casts’ credit, shifting one’s manor of speech in this way, enunciating clearly and projecting to the back row are terribly challenging skills unless you have a lot of experience or are preternaturally gifted in that way.
Aside from the accents though, Director Denis Yslas maximized the tempo of the play by having all the actors on stage the entire time and having them rapidly change costumes just behind the main set pieces. The set design by Wendy Searcy-Woode also lent itself to speed by requiring no significant changes but still allowing us to easily imagine the scene changes. The lighting design by Christian Blake White was well done with different color cues and projections on the back wall changing with the tone of the scene. Hope D. Cox’s costumes ably helped us differentiate the characters, as nearly all of them doubled up at some point in the show.
For a community theater show, this was a very capable production so if you are one of those that has seen several of those IMDB.com listings and has read a great deal of Austen you’ll be in for a treat. But, like so many pretentious writers before me, I will caveat: I liked the book more.
Kate Hamill’s “Pride & Prejudice” runs now through Sunday, Feb. 8, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. A single performance will take place on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $19-$28 and are on sale at irvingartscenter.com.