Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters romp romantically at Seattle Repertory Theatre, where a world premiere adaptation of: “Pride and Prejudice” will play September 29-October 29. A cast of Seattle’s favorite thespians bring it life, led by Kjerstine Anderson as Lizzy and Kenajuan Bentley as Mr. Darcy.
Amanda Dehbert directs the new adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1813 romance novel. Playwright/adaptor Kate Hamill promises irreverence while staying faithful to Austen’s work. But not to worry, empire waists and lavish Regency-era attire still abound in this familiar yet surprisingly modern west coast premiere adaptation.
Austen writes with irony and an astute understanding of an era, in which women didn’t necessarily marry for love, but rather for social standing and money. The comedy of her prose is rooted in her depiction of society, marriage, manners, and money during the British Regency period (1811-1820, when Prince George reigned as Regent after his father George III was declared insane).
“Pride and Prejudice” revolves around Elizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet, the second oldest of five sisters. Lizzy ultimately learns the error of making hasty judgments as well as the difference between the superficial and the honorable when love is involved. Neither she nor her sisters can inherit his estate, as it is entailed to the male line, and her mother did not come from money.
Jane is the eldest, age 22. She is beautiful, kind and the epitome of a Regency lady. Elizabeth, age 20, is intelligent, and independent. Middle sister Mary is plain, serious, pious, and always eager to show off her less than stellar talent on the piano. The fourth sister, 17-year-old Kitty, apes the behavior of her younger sister, 15-year-old Lydia, who is frivolous, headstrong, and flirtatious.
Their hypochondriac mother, Mrs. Bennet, suffers from attacks of tremors and palpitations whenever things are not going her way. Her main ambition in life is to marry her daughters off to wealthy men, their happiness of little concern to her. Mr. Bennet, a gracious gentleman and host, deals with his wife and girls with a dry and slightly sarcastic wit.
Life gets complicated for the Bennet tribe, when Jane falls in love with their wealthy neighbor, Mr. Bingley. He returns her regard, but unfortunately, his over-bearing, snobbish sister, Caroline, does not. And she fancies her brother’s wealthy friend, Mr. Darcy, who’s ill at ease in social situations and secretly drawn to Lizzy. She rebuffs his interest, mistaking his aloof manner for prideful snobbishness. And then there is the toadie Mr. Collins, an obsequious and pompous clergyman who is heir to the Bennett estate, and Mr. Wickham, a superficial dilettante and ultimately a scoundrel.
With over 20 million copies sold, “Pride and Prejudice” has remained one of the most popular novels in English literature. Austen’s book has spawned a number of dramatic adaptations and films. BBC’s 1995 mini-series of “Pride and Prejudice” is this writer’s favorite. It starred Jennifer Ehle (the daughter of acclaimed stage actress, Rosemary Harris) as Lizzy, and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. And David Camber gives a hilariously marvelous performance as the toadie Mr. Collins, who is what you might call a perfect fool. The 2005 film, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, is the most recent Hollywood adaption.
Austen’s novels have rarely been out of print, although they were published anonymously and brought her little fame during her lifetime. Sense and Sensibility” came first (1811) followed by “Pride and Prejudice” (1813), “Mansfield Park” (1814), and “Emma” (1815). She died in 1817 at age 42, but two additional novels, “Northanger Abbey” and “Persuasion,” were published posthumously in 1818. “Pride and Prejudice” has always been her most beloved.
“Pride and Prejudice” runs September 29-October 29, in Seattle Repertory Theatre’s Bagley Wright Theatre Tuesday through Sunday; tickets start at $17 and are available by calling the Seattle Repertory Theatre Box Office at (206) 443-2222 or toll-free at (877) 900-9285, or online at seattlerep.org
About The Director Amanda Dehbert:
Recent productions include: West Side Story (director), Carnegie Hall; Timon of Athens (adaptor, composer, director), Into the Woods (director, music director/conductor), My Fair Lady (director, music director), Julius Caesar (director, adaptor) for Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Eastland: A New Musical (world premiere – director, orchestrator), and Peter Pan – A Play (by Amanda Dehnert, world premiere), for Lookingglass Theatre Company; Richard III (director, adaptor, composer), for The Public Theatre Mobile Shakespeare Unit; The Verona Project (words and music by Amanda Dehnert, world premiere), for California Shakespeare Theatre; Death of a Salesman (director, composer) for Dallas Theatre Center; The Fantasticks (director,) for Trinity Rep, Long Wharf, Arena Stage, and South Coast Rep. Amanda is an associate professor of theatre at Northwestern University.
About The Playwright Kate Hamill:
Kate Hamill is an actor/playwright. As playwright: Sense & Sensibility (in which she originated the role of Marianne – Winner, Off-Broadway Alliance Award 2016); Nominee, Drama League Award (Best Revival, 2016); 265+ performances off-Broadway. Other plays include Vanity Fair (in which she originated the role of Becky Sharp; Nominee, Off-Broadway Alliance Award 2017), In the Mines(Sundance Lab semi-finalist), Em (Red Bull New Play finalist), Little Fellow (O’Neill semi-finalist). Her plays have been produced off-Broadway, at the Guthrie Theatre, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Dallas Theater Center, Folger Theatre (Helen Hayes Award, best production: Sense & Sensibility), and others. Upcoming productions at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, A.R.T., WaterTower, Playmakers Rep, Primary Stages, and more. Kate’s Sense and Sensibility and Vanity Fair are published by DPS.
Kjerstine Anderson as Lizzy
Kenajuan Bentley as Mr. Darcy
Cheyenne Casebier as Mrs. Bennet
Emily Chisholm as Jane/Miss de Bourgh
Trick Danneker as Mr. Bingley/Mary
Hana Lass as Lydia/Lady Catherine
Rajeev Varma as Mr. Bennet/Charlotte Lucas
Brandon O’Neill as Wickham/Miss Bingley/Mr.Collins
The Creative Team
John McDermott (scenic design)
Tracy Christensen (costume design)
Robert J. Aguilar (lighting design)
Mark Starritt (sound design)
Gin Hammond (dialect consultant);
Ellenore Scott (movement consultant).