Preview: ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ L.A. Theatre Works, Nov 15-18, 2012 (Highly Recommended)

Christina Calvit.

In honor of the classic novel’s 200th anniversary, LA Theatre Works presents Christina Calvit’s beloved adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It’s difficult to imagine a more influential novel than Jane Austen’s romantic masterpiece. It’s spawned countless adaptations, imitators, and of course, a worldwide network of devoted fans. A new rendition is ambitious at best – but then, Theatre Works isn’t known for shrinking from a challenge. This particular production, currently on tour, returns to L.A. on November 15.

Why It’s Highly Recommended: LA Theatre Works is well-known for its adept staging of classics and commitment to the literary as well as performance-oriented aspects of stagecraft. Calvit, the playwright, is a seasoned adapter of fiction to the stage. And of course, the story is unforgettable.

Background Notes: Boy meets girl. Girl hates boy. And somehow, all reason aside, they find true love. There’s a reason why the story is so well-loved, so often mimicked. Despite Austen’s sharp wit and keen sense of irony, there is an optimism which underlies the work, a belief that even the most hostile of forces can be united under the banner of love. Pride and Prejudice is hardly Austen’s most biting satire (that honor must surely go to Mansfield Park, which ends well for few if any); at heart the author loved romance, and could not resist uniting her most enduring characters in wedded bliss.

But despite her conventional end, Elizabeth Bennet is a true feminist heroine, and her exploration of the risks and rewards inherent to female independence is as relevant today as it was during the Regency. Indeed, there are few tropes of female choice which are not explored – from the compliant Jane to the spinsterly Mary, the calculating Charlotte to the sexually adventurous Lydia, and of course Elizabeth, who walks the fine balance between them all. The men of Pride and Prejudice are just as torn, though perhaps less free, wondering how on earth to adapt to this flurry of feminine discovery happening around them.

Ultimately, however, the desires of the heart must be subjected to the constraints of polite society. Most of the story’s drama arises as much from setting as from character. Misunderstandings which might be cleared up easily are studiously avoided for fear of giving offense. Passions requited are taken as hopeless, whilst those unrequited are taken for granted. Most egregiously, the cad Wickham is allowed to drift from house to house, seducing wealthy teenagers into ill-advised elopements, simply because character assassination, however deserved, is not done. Much of the plot revolves around this disconnect between common sense and social norm, and becomes downright frustrating as the audience watches yet another missed opportunity facilitated by the changing of a dance partner.

Austen effectively communicates the discomfort of social conformity in the narration of her novel, but how to bring inner thoughts to life? Calvit’s solution is tried and true – the audience aside. Much in the fashion of other thinkers of the stage (Hamlet and Richard III come to mind), Elizabeth makes the audience complicit in her own mischief, pausing in the action to drop a bon mot. It’s an intriguing and playful solution, and one which allows the playwright to preserve much more of Austen’s text than dialogue alone.

What to Look Out For: Calvit’s adaptation is faithful above all else – a fitting homage for the anniversary. The music of the language and quick repartee is largely Austen’s own, and this production is a wonderful opportunity to hear her words come to life – including some wonderful lines ignored in many other adaptations. The party scenes are always an audience favorite, and offer the observer a complex interplay of dialogue and action.

– Kate Ferreri, L.A. Opening Nights

Showtimes:

Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 at 8PM

Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, at 8PM

Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, at 3PM and 8PM

Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, at 4PM

Beginning Date: Nov 15, 2012
End Date: Nov 18, 2012
Performance Days: THU, FRI, SAT, SUN
Season: Regular
Location: James Bridges Theatre
Tickets & More Information
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Posted on November 4, 2012, in Live Theatre, November 2012. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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