The graduating class of Red Deer College’s Theatre Performance and Creation program is currently performing in the Jon Jory adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice, under the direction of instructor Lynda Adams and coaching by fellow student Evan Macleod. The adaptation is said to have kept much of Austen’s original written language including the oft-quoted lines. I am not enough of an Austen fan to verify this, except for the one about the truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. But there were certainly enough long convoluted sentences to convey the essential comedy-of-manners nature, in which an insult can be delivered so cleverly and politely that it takes the recipient (and the theatre audience) a beat or more to work out that something cutting has been said. “I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet; I send no compliments to your mother” was part of a harsh speech from one of the more blunt characters, Lady Catherine de Burgh (Katie Walker), but it took me a few moments to work out what a snub it was, as I could hear a slow chuckle make its way through the audience.
I thought that Rina Pelletier as Mrs. Bennet was particularly good at portraying the enthusiasms and motivations of her character through the unfamiliar idiom, and she was an audience favourite. There was a flouncing-in-her-chair moment in the second act that was especially memorable. Her husband was played by Richie Jackson, with a lovely contrast of his understated wry asides to his wife’s excesses. Despite similar costuming and hairdos, the five Bennet sisters gradually became distinguishable from each other, the agreeable eldest Jane (Pharaoh Seeley), clever blunt Elizabeth the protagonist (Kassidee Campbell), Mary the bookworm (Emily Cupples), Lydia who longs to meet soldiers (Emily Seymour), and Lydia’s flighty sidekick Kitty (Robyn Jeffrey). The characterizations of the clergyman Mr Collins (Brock Beal) and of Mr Bingley’s sister Caroline (Erin Pettifor) were pointed and amusing. The more successful suitors for the Bennet sisters, the pleasant neighbour Mr Bingley, the aloof Mr Darcy, and the untrustworthy Mr Wickham were played by Damon Lutz, Nate Rehman, and Michael Moore. Warren Stephens was a butler supervising a staff of stage-crew/footmen, as well as other small parts.
The stage sets, with moving backdrops and furniture and sturdy doors, conveyed the appropriate formality and simplicity. Garden strolls and private conversations were conveyed by having the characters step down from the main stage level to a lower promenade downstage. Scenes taking place at balls had appropriate-looking dancing groups in the background. I enjoyed watching the dancing so much that I wish some of it had been easier to see. A scene with Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle the Gardiners (Erin Pettifor and Brock Beal) riding in a carriage was mimed so amusingly with rocking over the bumpy road in unison that I didn’t listen to what they were saying.
Pride and Prejudice is playing at the Red Deer College Arts Centre mainstage until Saturday night, with tickets available through Black Knight Inn.