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Annapolis Shakespeare Company Pride and Prejudice

By • Apr 13th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Pride and Prejudice
Annapolis Shakespeare Company: (Info) (Web)
Bowie Playhouse, Bowie, MD
Through April 27th
$15-$20
Reviewed April 11th, 2013

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is one of the most adored love stories in English literature. Both pride and prejudice color Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s first impressions of one another and cause them to fail to realize what the reader/audience knows at once — how perfect they are for one another. But Austen’s novel is more than just a romance; it is also a sparkling witty comedy of manners. In Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s production, Sally Boyett-D’Angelo directs Jon Jory’s adaptation and, while the romance blossoms, the comedy has difficulty taking root.

Boyett-D’Angelo beautifully features the romantic elements of the show. She has directed her actors to savor the eye contact and quickened heartbeats of first attraction and to fan the flames of passion with longing looks and rising blushes. All the actors who were supposed to be attracted to one another were entirely successful, and Elizabeth and Darcy’s “love scene” was moving, heart-melting, and passionate.

Caitlin McWethy as Elizabeth is flat-out marvelous. Her emotional range is impressive, her presence is charming, and she beautifully captures Elizabeth’s intelligence and brashness. Everyone else in the show does their best work when they are alone on the stage with McWethy. These two person scenes were believable and engrossing and the highlights of the evening.

Michael Ryan Neely’s Darcy, as counterpoint to a dynamic Elizabeth, was stoic to the point of being still as a statue. Yet, it is a testament to Neely’s charisma and talent that he holds his own in his scenes with McWethy. While barely moving a muscle, he was able to convey his attraction, his interest, his discomfort, and his joy, all through his eyes and the force of his personality.

While the key romantic pairings of McWethy and Neely and Alyssa Bouma (Jane) and Grayson Owen (Bingley) created exciting sparks, the humor was less successful, as it was played, for the most part, broadly and without the finesse consistent with the tone of the piece. Characters like Elizabeth’s youngest sisters, Kitty and Lydia (Liz Kinder and Solveig Moe), Elizabeth’s mother (Carol Randolf), and Darcy’s aunt (Esther Schwarzbauer) are so over-the-top that they don’t seem to come from the same town or even the same play as Elizabeth and Darcy. They would seem more at home in an episode of “The Carol Burnett Show” than this period comedy. Jory’s script contains much of Austen’s actual dialogue, which is hilarious and biting on its own, but the choice to layer outsized energy and gestures on top of these caustic, witty words squelched a lot of the laughs.

Also distracting was the decision to have certain actors play more than one role, a device suggested by the script but especially odd in this production that utilized an ensemble of background actors with very little to do. While some actors were more successful than others at differentiating their characters, at times the actors playing two roles looked and behaved essentially the same in both parts, leading to moments of confusion before it became clear that they were actually a new character.

Boyett-D’Angelo’s staging varied from appealing to confusing. Part of the problem is Jory’s script, which bounces quickly from place to place and utilizes awkward narration to streamline the story. These devices are challenging and can lead to jerky pacing and lack of focus. At times, Boyett-D’Angelo rose to the challenge by utilizing choreography and Peter Ekstrom’s music to create seamless, smooth, and graceful transitions. At other times, the staging became unnecessarily complicated, such as during the first ball scene where the focus was muddled and the background action overpowered the dialogue.

The uncredited set design consisted of three tall sets of patio doors that were used not only as a means for entrances and exits, but also as a framing device to place characters in different settings or to illustrate the narration. The doors were attractive and versatile and, with the use of chairs, chandeliers, and a few other set pieces, served to create a myriad of locations. However, the minimal nature of the set caused the stage to look static at times, and the lighting design by Garrett Hyde, while adequately shifting focus between scenes, was not enough to sustain visual interest throughout. The period costumes by Maggie Cason were also inconsistent. Some of the dresses were lovely, and the military uniforms were crisp, but many of the costumes looked rumpled, and the use of shapeless bathrobes over the original costumes to differentiate the double-cast actors was unfortunate.

While Pride and Prejudice was not entirely consistent, this young company has created an enjoyable production full of burgeoning romance. While the evening is not entirely smooth, the road to true love never is.

Photo Gallery

Caitlin McWethy (Elizabeth Bennet), Michael Ryan Neely (Mr. Darcy) Caitlin McWethy (Elizabeth Bennet), Michael Ryan Neely (Mr. Darcy)
Caitlin McWethy (Elizabeth Bennet), Michael Ryan Neely (Mr. Darcy)
Caitlin McWethy (Elizabeth Bennet), Michael Ryan Neely (Mr. Darcy)
Grayson Owen (Mr. Bingley), Alyssa Bouma (Jane Bennet) Caitlin McWethy (Elizabeth Bennet), Solveig Moe (Lydia Bennet), Jim Reiter (Mr. Bennet)
Grayson Owen (Mr. Bingley), Alyssa Bouma (Jane Bennet)
Caitlin McWethy (Elizabeth Bennet), Solveig Moe (Lydia Bennet), Jim Reiter (Mr. Bennet)
Grayson Owen (Mr. Bingley), Alyssa Bouma (Jane Bennet), Robert C. Mobley, Jim Cason, Caitlin McWethy (Elizabeth Bennet)
Grayson Owen (Mr. Bingley), Alyssa Bouma (Jane Bennet), Robert C. Mobley, Jim Cason, Caitlin McWethy (Elizabeth Bennet)

Photos by Corey Sentz

Cast

  • Mr. Bennet: Jim Reiter
  • Mrs. Bennet: Carol Randolf
  • Elizabeth Bennet: Caitlin McWethy
  • Jane Bennet: Alyssa Bouma
  • Mary Bennet/Charlotte Lucas: Stephanie Ramsey
  • Kitty Bennet/Georgiana Darcy: Liz Kinder
  • Lydia Bennet: Solveig Moe
  • Mr. Darcy: Michael Ryan Neely
  • Mr. Bingley/Colonel Fitzwilliam: Grayson Owen
  • Sir William Lucas/Mr. Gardiner: Joshua Boulden
  • George Wickham: Bob Mobley
  • Lady Catherine De Bourgh/Housekeeper: Esther Schwarzbauer
  • The Officer: Michael Pimpo
  • Ensemble: Jim Cason, Helen Gorman, Rebecca Jonas, Caleb Pimpo, Miranda Savage

Crew

  • Production stage Manager: Liza Hackman
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Elena Hein
  • Stage Manager Trainee: Corey Sentz
  • Light Board Operator: Noah Diekemper
  • Dance Captain: Alyssa Bouma
  • Wardrobe Mistress Maggie Cason

Artistic Staff

  • Director/Choreographer: Sally Boyett-D’Angelo
  • Composer: Peter Ekstrom
  • Dialect Coach: Nancy Krebs
  • Costume Design: Maggie Cason
  • Lighting Design: Garrett Hyde
  • Producer: Terry Bouma

Production Staff

  • Technical Director: Garrett Hyde
  • Master Electrician: Peter Dursin
  • Sound Technician: Wally Kleinfelder
  • Technician: Al Chopey
  • Assistant Technical Director: Joshua Boulden
  • Lead Carpenter: Jim Cason
  • Scenic Painting: Caitlin McWethy

Disclaimer: Annapolis Shakespeare Company provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has a degree in theatre performance from the University of Maryland, and is currently living in Richmond, Virginia.

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