Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Pride and Prejudice
Hartford Stage
Review by Fred Sokol

Madeline Barker
and Carman Lacivita

Photo by T Charles Erickson
Hartford Stage's exuberant production of Kate Hamill's Pride and Prejudice actualizes the theatrical kitchen sink, so to speak, complete with sight gags as well as individual and collective stand-up comedy. A lengthy presentation, the extravaganza should wow receptive viewers. Maximizing a large performance space, director Tatyana-Marie Carlo utilizes a thrust stage, which means that those sitting in the front row should not extend their legs lest they trip unaware actors.

Hamill has loosely adapted Jane Austen's novel and the playwright successfully elicits guffaws and giggles from theatregoers who are simply delighted to be amused by eight performers as these thespians spin through one scene after another. The dizzying array of Bennett sisters cavort with great glee throughout. Lizzy (Renata Eastlick) has set her sights on Mr. Darcy (Carman Lacivita), an arrogant sourpuss of a man. Lizzy is bright, strong, and (compared to her sisters) honest. The pretty Jane (María Gabriela González) zeroes in on Mr. Bingley (Sergio Mauritz Ang). Madeleine Barker, as Mary, brings down the house each and every moment she's on stage. She's flipping her hair in front of her face or grunting while playing to a welcoming audience. Barker makes the most of the opportunity as a physical actress to flail, flop, and so forth. She has issues with the garment she's wearing: "This dress itches," Mary says. Lydia (Zoë Kim) is quite bizarre. Their mother, Mrs. Bennet (Lana Young), who is audacious and outspoken, drives and exhorts her daughters.

It's not clear when, exactly, the Hamill version takes place, but probably during the early part of the nineteenth century. Costume designer Haydee Zelideth's catchy wardrobing is very much of that era. The outfits are resplendently imaginative both for women and men. While the author gives men significant opportunity to shine, this Pride and Prejudice remains very much a woman's show: Let's reward the sisters and the women they call Mama with top billing.

Mrs. Bennett wants her daughters married and she is brashly demanding. Lizzy's the one who has the smarts to navigate fairly well throughout. The first act, even as storyline is secondary, is a laugh riot from the get-go. After intermission, slapstick and farce continue, but Hamill manages to include a few quieter exchanges of meaningful dialogue. Jane and Lizzie wonder about the "perfect match." After a time, Darcy admits to Lizzy: "You have ensnared me." She then dresses him down and, later, Jane and Lizzie commiserate about "matches lost" and they hug.

This show is of the in-your-face variety and the skillful assemblage of performers, who must be pliable and sometimes fleet of foot, pull it off handsomely. Director Tatyana-Marie Carlo and choreographer Shura Baryshnikov are surely pivotal as cast members successfully traipse up and down the house aisles next to patrons and dash within and around the periphery of the stage. Many of the actors are cast in multiple roles and they move from one persona to the next with seeming ease.

This production is designed to please and it wouldn't be a stretch to call it people's theatre. On the one hand, actors are placed in a dream situation, as some have the green light to embody and accentuate characters who are anything but shy. Yet, such turns rely upon excellent technique, discipline, and–here is a key–control. If all eight of these talented souls were simply releasing without consequence into the night, chaos would ensue. What we have, instead, is a sculpted performance that exhibits precise timing.

All of that said, anyone looking for a slightly modified stage rendering of the Jane Austen fiction will not find it at Hartford Stage. It would not be fair to call this a send-up of the Austen original, which evokes a time in a small English town in the southern portion of England. Hartford Stage's mounting, raucous and audience-friendly, fills the air with hijinks and humor, not plot. Kate Hamill, who has enjoyed success both as a playwright and an actor, composed a script which affords the nifty cast members many golden opportunities.

Pride and Prejudice runs through November 5, 2023, at Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford CT. For tickets and information, please call 860-527-5151 or visit