Monday, March 27, 2017

reviews - PRIDE @ PREJUDICE - Southwest Shakespeare Company

Alison Campbell and Kyle Sorrell
photo by Patrick Walsh
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 8th.

"...In Southwest Shakespeare Company’s creatively witty and hugely entertaining production of the 1813 Austen classic...Playwright Daniel Elihu Kramer has deconstructed Austen’s book and presented it as a play rife with questions to be answered, theories to be discussed, on-line blogs to be written, plus asides, movie quotes and even a word or two from Jane Austen herself in the form of letters written to either her older sister Cassandra or her niece, Fanny. It’s like watching a newly prepared Annotated Pride and Prejudice for the Twenty-First Century Reader. ...Austen’s novel is left largely intact....the overall feel is one of a satisfactory re-telling that incorporates all key elements of familiar dialog and famous scenes. The five players listed as Actress A, B and C (Alison Campbell, Katie Hart and Breona Conrad) and Actor A and B (Kyle Sorrell and Cale Pascual) perform all characters from the sprawling novel and literally tell the story. When Mr. Darcy (Kyle Sorrell) sees Elizabeth Bennet (Alison Campbell) across the room, Sorrell both performs and narrates, “When she caught his eye, he withdrew his gaze.” And later, “Elizabeth attracted Darcy more than he liked.” With a keen, inventive approach, director Kent Burnham allows his actors to drop the faux, somewhat clipped and genteel English period accents as each performer stops the action, which regularly occurs, steps out of character and asks of the audience in an American voice, to whom was Jane Austen engaged, or how many Bennet daughters are there in the novel? ...What’s particularly notable is how good the five-member cast are with all of of their individual characters. ..Ultimately, during the final twenty minutes, the play feels longer than it should. ...the story is so wonderfully engaging on its own terms that breaking the fourth wall for additional asides of trivia makes things less entertaining, while those asides become more interruptive....like the book, the play’s conclusion can’t help but be one of great satisfaction. As playwright Kramer has his characters tell us in advance of the intermission, unlike modern novelists, Jane Austen wasn’t afraid of happy endings." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"...works of classic literature have continually been adapted, updated, revised, and even set in different times and locations. One of the latest of these modernized versions is Daniel Elihu Kramer's Pride @ Prejudice, a fairly faithful yet also fun and irreverent theatrical version of Jane Austen's classic novel that includes 21st century sensibilities within the 1820 setting of the story. While the show is fast paced, the play itself is a bit long, running two and a half hours, and some of Kramer's additions that try to clarify the story actually bog it down at points. Southwest Shakespeare Company's production features an incredibly talented cast and skilled direction that deliver plenty of romance, suspense and comedy in Austen's beloved love story....While it is a fairly complex story, it is actually a very basic tale of five unwed sisters, the various suitors and obstacles that come into their lives, and the girls' parents who seek to find suitable and hopefully rich husbands for their daughters, since their property is entailed so none of the girls would inherit anything once their father is gone. At the center of the story is Elizabeth Bennet, second eldest of the Bennet sisters, and the handsome and wealthy, though completely disagreeable, Fitzwilliam Darcy. The plot follows the many ups and downs of their romantic relationship set against the social skills and practices of the time. Kramer intersperses a number of modern and irreverent touches throughout his play, including the insertion of facts, explanations, reenactments of lines from the various film and TV adaptations of the novel, having the cast pose as online individuals who are either well versed in the novel or have questions or are confused by the book and are looking for guidance via the internet, and even having Austen herself appear as a character. These insertions bring a levity to the piece and offer guidance to those who may not be familiar with the story, especially in how they raise questions about a specific character's actions. Kramer also often has his characters provide narration on both the settings and what their specific characters are thinking. The majority of this works...But with an overly complicated set of characters, multiple locations, and an intricate plot, if Kramer had cut a few of these moments, especially the ones that are repeated twice...the play would be much tighter without losing any of the humor. Director Kent Burnham interjects a playful tone in this production yet never downplays the importance of Austen's work. He also has found an incredibly talented cast who delivery rich portrayals of these beloved characters. The quintet of actors skillfully play dozens of people with just a change in accent or the addition of a hat, piece of clothing or glasses. ...Burnham's staging is fast paced and lively though he ensures the romantic, serious moments aren't played too broad so they have resonance. Alison Campbell is luminous, wise and headstrong as Elizabeth, while Kyle Sorrell instills Darcy with a sense of proud elegance..Katie Hart plays numerous parts that show off her wide range...Cale Pascual also plays numerous parts with ease, instilling each with a clear awareness and fortitude. Breona Conrad is a hoot as the overbearing but still lovable Mrs. Bennet and several supporting female characters...the sublime creative elements allow the work to flow back and forth in time...Pride @ Prejudice, while about ten minutes too long, is a fun, fast-paced, updated look at this beloved work that helps, in some ways, to untangle the tangled relationships of the novel. Southwest Shakespeare Company's production has rich direction and an excellent cast who instill the piece with plenty of sass, humor, and a huge shot of romance. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)


".... A cast of five quick-changes through multiple characters...while consulting their smartphones to offer some context dredged up on the Internet. This conceit...borders on the pedantic and contributes to a nearly three-hour running time...but the show is a winner thanks to the tongue-in-cheek mugging of the talented actors...Fans of Jane Austen and Merchant Ivory films are sure to be tickled; reluctant tag-alongs might not be converted".Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

"If, perchance, you had never read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, you'd be none the worse for the delight you'd glean from Southwest Shakespeare Company's scintillating and brainy production of PRIDE@PREJUDICE, Daniel Elihu Kramer's clever modernization of the 1813 classic....five lively and versatile artists (Alison Campbell, Katie Hart, Breona Conrad, Kyle Sorrell, and Cale Pascual) role switch between the several habitu├ęs of Austen's Netherfield Park and Longbourn who, each in their own way, seek love, self-affirmation, empowerment, and security....Campbell and Sorrell play off each other masterfully... Katie Hart is divine and a delight to behold as she switches between the roles of Jane and Lydia, the eldest and youngest of the Bennet daughters, and captures their distinctive manners and attitudes...the 61-chapter novel is still a challenging read...Darcy (Sorrell) breaks character to ask how anyone can read Pride and Prejudice without getting confused! He subsequently shares a social web chart that maps the interlocking relationships and six degrees of separation that link to Elizabeth and Darcy. A very funny moment!...Kent Burnham has directed a fast-paced marathon of revelatory moments that should instill an even deeper appreciation of Austen's work. His cast has imbued the play with energy and panache. If you love Shakespeare, you'll love Kramer ~ and, without prejudice, you'll take pride in Southwest Shakespeare's eminently rich production of PRIDE@PREJUDICE." - Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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