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REVIEW: Long Beach Playhouse’s Pride and Prejudice

From+left%3A+Kimberly+Connolly+%28Elizabeth+Bennet%29+and+Chaz+Bright-Haup+%28Mr.+Darcy%29+in+Long+Beach+Playhouse%E2%80%99s+Pride+and+Prejudice
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REVIEW: Long Beach Playhouse’s Pride and Prejudice

From left: Kimberly Connolly (Elizabeth Bennet) and Chaz Bright-Haup (Mr. Darcy) in Long Beach Playhouse’s Pride and Prejudice

From left: Kimberly Connolly (Elizabeth Bennet) and Chaz Bright-Haup (Mr. Darcy) in Long Beach Playhouse’s Pride and Prejudice

Photo by Michael Hardy Photography

From left: Kimberly Connolly (Elizabeth Bennet) and Chaz Bright-Haup (Mr. Darcy) in Long Beach Playhouse’s Pride and Prejudice

Photo by Michael Hardy Photography

Photo by Michael Hardy Photography

From left: Kimberly Connolly (Elizabeth Bennet) and Chaz Bright-Haup (Mr. Darcy) in Long Beach Playhouse’s Pride and Prejudice

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The worlds of wealthy 19th-century English gentlemen and independent-minded young ladies collide spectacularly in Long Beach Playhouse’s rousing adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, continuing through Dec. 1. An adept and well-directed cast brings Austen’s intricate novel to life, playing up the humor while portraying how gender and class differences might be overcome by love and a sharp wit.

Aurora Culver dynamically directs Jon Jory’s faithful adaptation, orchestrating a cast of 14 talented performers on the U-shaped stage with deft manipulation of props and lighting. Direction includes cast members sometimes narrating elements of the story before shifting seamlessly back into character, and letters not only read aloud, but also dramatized.

The actors themselves are uniformly excellent, juggling not only their lines, accents and emotional inflections, but also tricky period dance steps during society balls (choreographed by Phie Mura). Their costumes (Donna Fritsche) are also reflective of the time– gowns with ribbons and bonnets– but unfussy, allowing the characters to shine.

The key roles of the Bennet parents and their five marriage-eligible daughters (!) are especially delightful. John Phelan is believable as Mr. Bennet, even-handed with his daughters and tolerant of his highly-strung wife, exquisitely portrayed by Jill Cary Martin, who truly becomes Mrs. Bennet in her near-hysterical manipulation of her daughters’ marriage prospects.

The two youngest sisters– Kitty (Amara Phelps) and Lydia (Dakota Sioux)– are portrayed as cute and giggly, the opposite of bookish, philosophical sister Mary (Kaitlyn Smith). Jane Bennet, the balanced eldest, is sympathetically portrayed by Augusta Abene as she navigates the attentions of rich new neighbor Mr. Bingley, played by an equally warm and likable Micah Lee.

And Kimberly Connolly makes a stellar Elizabeth Bennet, whose clear reasoning and clever tongue combine to face down the pride and apparent prejudices of Mr. Bingley’s friend, the affluent yet taciturn Mr. Darcy (Chaz Bright-Haup). Both carry their lead roles with aplomb, especially Connolly, whose progressive Elizabeth is frequently on the defensive.

Elizabeth must uphold her views, not only to Mr. Darcy, but also to the formidably powerful Lady Catherine (regally played by Kerry Laughren Hedley), who tells Elizabeth it is her responsibility to deny Darcy’s advances, not his to curb them. As Culver states in her director’s notes, “the social expectations of the time encourage us to laugh at them as well as reflect on our society now.”

And also like us, Elizabeth may have to confront some of her own prejudices if she is to find happiness. You may find yourself rooting for her– as well as all the characters challenged by society’s constrictions– and laughing aloud in this well-paced, lively production of a sophisticated, still resonant story.

Pride and Prejudice continues at the Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theatre, 5021 E. Anaheim St., through Dec. 1, with shows Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $20 to $24. For tickets and information, call the box office at (562) 494-1014 or visit lbplayhouse.org.

1 Comment

One Response to “REVIEW: Long Beach Playhouse’s Pride and Prejudice”

  1. Jim Pack on November 21st, 2018 6:19 pm

    This production was amazing on so many different levels, characterizations, dance choreography (even though it isn’t a musical), costumes, internal family relationships, romance. Brilliant on all counts. Well done to all involved.

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REVIEW: Long Beach Playhouse’s Pride and Prejudice