In an adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice, Castaways Repertory Theatre and Homeschool Theatre Troupe provide an evening of laughs coupled with a heartwarming love-story. The 31 actors, ranging from ages 11-18, provide charming, dry, and often very real characters.
Set in Harforshire, England, in 1811, Most of the play centers around Elizabeth Bennet (Anna Taylor), her sisters Jane (Elli Esher) and Lydia (Heather Biscula), and their courtships: As there are no male heirs to the Bennet estate, the women must marry in order to receive any of the family’s wealth or land. The central focus, of course, is the eventual marriage of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (George Eichelberger) and Elizabeth. To marry, though, the incredibly rich Mr. Darcy, who describes Elizabeth as “tolerable” at the start of the play, must overcome his overwhelming pride, and Elizabeth, who is “determined to hate” Mr. Darcy, must overcome her crippling prejudice.
Anna Taylor, who plays Elizabeth, gives a very genuine performance and is emotionally in-tune with her character. Both Ms. Taylor, and her counterpart, Mr. Eichelberger, act their roles with an ease (very impressive since they are 18 and 17 year old respectively.) While the unlikely partners are supposed to be uncomfortable with each other at points in the play, they could use a little more “spark” to make their eventual marriage more believable.
Some of the best performances in this production come from the supporting actors. Elizabeth’s mother, played by Elen Limber, gives an energetic and holistic portrayal of the often frantic character. Robert Mourad is an audience favorite, especially droll when bringing out the dry wit in Mr. Bennet. Another stand out is Patrick Gall, who played the role of Reverend Collins, a failed suitor of Elizabeth. Moving rather like an awkward marionette, Collins captures his character’s quirks and eccentricities with no trouble. His performance is quite often spot-on.
One incredibly talented actress in Pride and Prejudice is Heather Biscula. Biscula plays Elizabeth’s sister Lydia who runs off foolishly to marry in the second act. She has excellent comic timing, her facial expressions and reactions are excellent, and she brings life to production whenever she appears. Watch for Ms. Biscula in the coming months and years in other productions.
The design of the show is exceptional. The costumes are hand sewn by Jill Beare and Debra Bucklen. They add personality and flavor to each character, and are, with little exception, perfectly in period. Hand-sewing period costumes for 31 characters is no small task, and these two talented women accomplish it with skill and precision.
The set (Scott Keller, assisted by Joe Limber) is elegant, and the decoration is well-done. My one suggestion to HTT and Castaways would be to not put the entire set on one plane because it creates blocking issues when a large cast is involved, and certainly contributes to the numerous times where actors are forced to upstage themselves.
I can imagine how difficult it was for Director Little to try to block such a large cast. At my performance, however, numerous entrances took too much time and cues were missed, thus accounting for the three hour running time. This created some frustration because I and audience members, at times, did not know when we could applaud. And I was beginning not to care about these characters. I am confident that these issues will be addressed and corrected as the run progresses.
Castaways Repertory Theatre and HTT tell a timeless tale with poise. If you are a casting agent reading this review -come see the show because there are some excellent, promising actors in Pride and Prejudice. The leads, supporting actors, and even those who are only on for a short cameo, all make their mark.
Running Time: Approximately three hours, with one 15-minute intermission.
Pride and Prejudice plays June 20, 21, 27, and 28, 2014 at the Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Auditorium -15941 Donald Curtis Drive in Woodbridge, Virginia. Purchase tickets at the door contact [email protected].