By CAROLINE HYLTON For The News-Letter
Whether it was the dancing, the romance, the family drama, the period or simply that it sounded like they were calling the maid “whore.” There was something to delight everyone in Center Stage’s world premiere production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice adapted by Christopher Baker and performed on Sept. 18.
From the moment you entered the venue in the opening night performance you were transported into the time period and world of Austen as players/cast members wandered about and invited audience members to dance with them in the regency style before doors opened on the production.
The lobby was filled with painted screens and era-appropriate furniture.
This performance, while still routed in its original time period, took many liberties in order to better appeal to our modern audience. What we got was a Pride and Prejudice that, while still dealing with an 18th century family, dealt with one that is sassy, bold and full of one-liners which left the audience in stitches. This adaptation of Austen’s classic stayed close enough to the source material while making enough changes to keep the adaptation fresh and relatable in to a modern audience.
The play tells the story of a family with all daughters who, due to English property law, have fortunes which intend entirely on their romantic futures. What ensues is a fun romp about family, relationships and respectability.
The actors seemed to have a real and thorough understandings of their characters. Even the pauses, looks and physicality spoke volumes. Lydia, the youngest and raunchiest of the Bennet daughters, was portrayed by the wonderful and delightful Ali Rose Dachis whose physical comedy and mannerisms elevated the character to new levels.
The places where this performance truly excelled, however, was in scene composition and staging.
There was more than one moment in the performance where there were large seamless ensemble scenes that were just awesome.
The greatest flaws of the performance were its treatment of the first ball. Balls were the central social gathering of the time and as such it is where a lot of the drama goes down. The characters were overshadowed by unpolished dancing and frankly a horrendous score that was inexpertly weaved into the conversations of the principle actors in the scene.
The play runs through Oct. 11 at the Center Stage Theatre in Mount Vernon, right next to the Peabody campus and is, frankly, a must see.