Romance and Hilarity Abound in Book-It’s Pride and Prejudice
By Marisa Yamasaki
Originally published in the December 2014 issue.
Book-it Repertory Theatre is a book lover’s dream: literary works are turned into plays that remain entirely faithful to the source material. Book-it’s current production, Pride and Prejudice, is no exception. With a stellar cast and witty adaptation, it Pride and Prejudice is sure to charm viewers whether they have read the novel a dozen times or are yet to be acquainted with this classic of Regency England.
Pride and Prejudice is part of Book-It’s Silver Jubilee Season, which celebrates the company’s 25th anniversary. The show, which was also produced by Book-It in 2000 and 2004, is adapted and directed by Marcus Goodwin.
Pride and Prejudice tells the story of Elizabeth Bennet, a witty and outspoken young woman determined to shape her own future. Living at a time when women are expected to marry, Elizabeth and her sisters are introduced to a charming neighbor, a pretentious cousin, and a host of dashing officers. Yet none match Elizabeth’s perceptiveness except Mr. Darcy, a proud, selfish man whose great wealth is not enough to win him the favor of society. As they struggle through scandals, rumors, and misunderstandings, Elizabeth and Darcy are irresistibly drawn to one another.
With no production set, simply a backdrop and stage painted with cursive handwriting, the characters literally jump off the page. Each scene flows into the next as the intricate plot develops. The production employs Book-It Style, described on the company’s website as “world-premiere adaptations of classic and contemporary literature for the stage, preserving the narrative text as it is spoken, not by a single ‘narrator’ but as dialogue by the characters in the production.” All of the characters participate in the narration, moving seamlessly between acting out and telling the story.
There is never a dull moment in Book-It’s Pride and Prejudice, and the storyline leaves room for humor. Austen’s wry social commentary is even funnier on stage, as the narrative combines jokes with situational irony. Each humorous line is delivered with another on its heels, keeping the audience laughing through the entire production.
The entire cast is superb, interpreting their characters faithfully, yet playing them with a liveliness not found in the novel. Jennifer Lee Taylor shines as Elizabeth Bennet, balancing wit and good humor. Taylor expresses Elizabeth’s loyalty and strong opinions, characteristics that have stood the test of time. Taylor has played Elizabeth previously with Book-It.
Mr. Darcy, played by Richard Nguyen Sloniker, complements Elizabeth’s character. From his first entrance he commands attention; his aloofness charges the atmosphere. He delivers each rude line with poise, simultaneously infuriating and alluring. Sloniker is also a Book-It veteran.
Out of the rest of the cast, the performances of Brian Thompson and Kimberly King, who play Elizabeth’s bantering parents, are especially commendable. So is that of Mr. Collins, the Bennets’ unctuous cousin, performed by John Bianchi. The other characters – family members, friends, and acquaintances – are excellently portrayed and spice up the story.
For fans of Jane Austen, Book-It Repertory Theatre’s Pride and Prejudice provides a lively adaptation without altering the story. For history enthusiasts, the play contains enough dancing and empire waistlines to satisfy. With its timelessness and vivacity, Pride and Prejudice will please any audience. The production runs through December 28; tickets and more information can be found at http://book-it.org/.