Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
Pride and Prejudice
Gerardo Díaz Sánchez's pink-hued set design brings us to the interior of an estate in rural England during the first part of the nineteenth century. Even the staircase is eye-catching. Mrs. Bennet (Maria Elena Ramirez) hopes to find suitors for her daughters. Mr. Bennet (Rami Margron) especially favors daughter Lizzy (Aneisa J. Hicks), vigorous, bold and, as Hicks embodies her, a young woman primed to enjoy life. Her older sister Jane (Octavia Chavez-Richmond) is a good friend to Lizzy. Jane is taken with the visiting Mr. Bingley (Luis Moreno). Bingley, thanks to costumer Izumi Inaba, wears a wildly hilarious outfit. He is pals with Mr. Darcy (Biko Eisen-Martin), who is formal and stiff much of the time. As the play evolves, it becomes clear that he has eyes for Lizzy. Luis Moreno, who has three roles, is a four-star hoot as Mary Bennet. Dawn Elizabeth Clements plays Lydia Bennet, who does not seem the wisest of sisters, yet she eventually couples with a man named Wickham (Brian Lee Huynh). Six of the eight actors have multiple roles and director McLeod smartly coaxes the performers to push pace throughout.
The opening of the show is replete with original music composed by Megumi Katayama, which leads to a quick sequence of something reminiscent of square dancing, making the production immediately celebratory. James Beaudry's choreography, here and elsewhere, is nifty. As one vignette leads to another, there's oftentimes a Latin percussive beat to be heard.
Hamill's Pride and Prejudice, as interpreted by McLeod and enlivened through zestful performances, is as amusing as it is unique. On the page, Austen's novel might be quietly comedic, but the current rendering, Long Wharf's second straight outright winner, is audacious and laugh-out-loud fare. Actors are often coming and goingfortunately, the one rear door isn't wooden; otherwise, the commotion of sound might obliterate dialogue. Call the production a thoughtful and well-executed farce. Nothing is random, nothing is stagnant.
Throughout its first hour, as characters are introduced, storyline is decidedly secondary. McLeod casts against type and her choices, however unlikely, are terrific. You need to see actress Rami Margron as Mr. Bennet, and Luis Moreno, a hefty man, as Mary Bennet. During the early going, it's sufficient and fulfilling to watch and marvel. At some point, there is a desire to give attention to the plot.
Those expecting a strict remake of Jane Austen's book will be disappointed. The Long Wharf Production is snappy and fairly short, the running time, including intermission, a tad more than two hours. This Pride and Prejudice is a controlled riot of live entertainment, accomplished with attention, discipline and control. The production is a team success whereby elements of production and specific direction for actors serve to open the stage. Even a skeptic or one who is not particularly a theater lover will be taken in.
Pride and Prejudice runs through December 22, 2019, at Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven CT. For tickets and information, call 203-787-4282 or visit longwharf.org.