Pride and Predjudice (Review)

Jane Austen adaptation saved by rewarding climax

Patience. That’s Jane Austen’s prescription for love woes of any kind, and it’s my advice for enjoying Pride and Prejudice, a Cincinnati Shakespeare Company production with a lot of talking, a lot of dancing and a romantic climax that makes it all worthwhile.

Of course, it’s hard watch and wait when marital bliss, coupled with a lifelong guarantee of material comfort, lies just beyond one’s grasp. And it’s hard to sit by while 15 actors skate through scene after scene of arch Austen-esque dialogue (from Jon Jory’s serviceable adaptation) with forced accents and scant sensitivity to underlying relationships or emotional subtext. It’s enough to make any well-mannered Anglophile cranky, particularly when the assembly room we share is sweltering, as it was on opening night.

Space (and likely budget) limitations make it hard for director D. Lynn Meyers and company to convey the piece’s scope. Over months of action (and non-action), we follow the up-and-down fates of the five Bennet sisters and, in particular, Elizabeth’s ramblings across the countryside to London and through several estates of varying grandeur.

Neither Andrew Hungerford’s interior/exterior box set, nor costumer Heidi Jo Schiemer’s handsome but limited wardrobe for the cast reflect the changes of season or passage of time. More critically, the performances don’t seem to evolve; such minor-but-meaty characters as Mr. Bennet, Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh lack dimension, and even Elizabeth’s emotional arc from the first scene to the last feels shallow.

But when the lively Miss Bennet and the brooding Mr. Darcy finally overcome their respective follies and meet in a kiss, our endurance is rewarded beyond all expectation. Beautiful young stars Sara Clark and Ian Bond embrace with the kind of passion that only two hours of theatricalized English reticence can produce. In that moment we forgive all the production’s flaws. We might even find our dates suddenly more attractive.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, runs through March 13. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.

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