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Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Time Event
9:31a
Milwaukee Rep: Pride and Prejudice
The Milwaukee Rep is presenting its production of Jane Austen's "Pride
and Prejudice" (adapted for the stage by Rep Artistic Director Joseph
Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan) through March 29th. We went to see it on
March 18th and were thoroughly pleased.

The Rep's adaptation is fast-moving, although almost three hours long
with approximately eighty "scenes" which become an almost continual
dance of shifting furniture representing the various homes and halls
that is almost entertaining in itself. The adaptation captures so much
of the crucial dialog and description that neither of us could detect a
significant omission.

Those who care for Austen know that the plot relates the trials of the
five penurious Bennet daughters as they attempt to either succeed at or
avoid matrimony while maneuvering the pitfalls of manners and mores in
Regency England. The girls were played by Sarah Rutan as Jane, the
beautiful eldest daughter; Lee Stark as protagonist and second sister,
the prickly and intellectual Elizabeth; Richelle Meiss as Mary; and Eva
Balistriri and Emily Vitrano as the flibbertigibbet younger sisters
Kitty and Lydia. Each of the actresses made their girls a distinct
character, even the withdrawn Mary.

Of course, the play is a tour de force for those playing Elizabeth and
Darcy. Ms. Stark and Grant Goodman as Fitzwilliam Darcy met the
challenge and triumphed. Stark has a fine passion and spark as
Elizabeth. Mr. Goodman looks wonderful as Darcy--he is tall, handsome,
has an excellent repertoire of scowls and grumpy looks, and matches
Stark's emotional roller-coaster ride dip for dip and peak for peak. In
some ways I think that the stage adaptation is an improvement over the
movies I have seen. The stage allows a certain flexibility. In Darcy's
ham-handed proposal scene, Ms. Stark is able to really let out
Elizabeth's rage at him, whereas in film, the scene seems always to be
done more "intimately" and lower-key. In the scene of formidable Lady
Catherine DeBurgh's "inquisition" in the second act, Stark's Elizabeth
ably meets De Burgh's (played with relish by Rep veteran Rose Pickering)
dudgeon and indignation on the same level.

The main couple were ably supported by excellent characterizations in
the rest of the cast. Laura Gordon gave Mrs. Bennet an interpretation a
bit more forceful and less flighty than some, but which worked well. The
required flightiness quotient was made up by Emily Vitrano in the role
of the willful daughter Lydia, who chewed the scenery with an
appropriate level of adolescent self-dramatization. Jonathan Gillard
Daly as the long-suffering Mr. Bennet delivered the family patriarch's
wry observations with fine form. One does not often use the words
"unctuous" and "dweeb" together, but that is the best description I can
put together for the character of the climbing Mr. Collins, as presented
by Brian Vaughn (last seen as "The Knight" in "Mirandolina".)

It really was a fine show in all ways, and I would recommend it even for
those who don't know the novel as a very accessible and entertaining
introduction to Austen's works.

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