Calvin Theatre Company’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is flawed but charming

Photo+courtesy+CTC

Photo courtesy CTC

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one develops a deep love and understanding for a particular work of literature, it becomes difficult to approach other adaptations of said work with a conjugal and unprejudiced mind.

With this said, gentle reader, I beg your indulgence and here pledge my sincerest impressions of a certain theatrical event that graced our campus on Saturday last.

The theatrics were indeed fairly pleasant. To watch Elizabeth gently develop those feelings of love universal in all humanity made for a charming evening.

These players, she, with countenance vivacious, though perhaps less fully nuanced than desired, and he, delightfully earnest in both pride and passion, brought joy to the audience.

Perhaps even more delightful was Mr. Bennett, who, with simple sneers and deliciously witty speeches, elicited the most merriment from us all. Mrs. Bennet’s speeches were many and well-played, appropriately silly and “wonderfully absurd,” as Mr. Bennett remarked.

I also enjoyed the light-hearted, gentlemanly levity of Mr. Bingley and Caroline Bingley’s icy disdain.

The stage construction presented a most ingenious bit of carpentry. The large architectural structure, placed on two rotating circular devices, gracefully turned the scene into many different arenas: parlor, grounds or bedroom.

However, at every turn of the stage and scene, the lights were extinguished. These moments of darkness robbed the play and actors of what could be choice moments in which to develop their characters, a fundamental element of any of Miss Austen’s texts.

Miss Austen’s language is so central to her stories and her writing so presticogitating and quick, these unnecessary interruptions did a disservice to her story. I surmise, with clever blocking, the movement of the play could continue naturally through the revolutions of the set.

One such pattern was used at the end of the show; the lights remained on and the players moved about on the moving stage. I could not but wonder why such a system was not maintained throughout.

Generally, all the characters could have moved more. Most specially, the secondary characters, whose nuances were lost in translation from page to stage.

Such endearing moments, Elizabeth’s altercation with Miss de Bourgh nearer the end of the novel, for example, plodded from a lack of movement. The scene, indeed, originally unfolds in a garden during a walk, yet the players stood almost entirely still.

The secondary characters could have benefitted from more intentional blocking and thus conveyed their characters more clearly.

Could we have not seen Lydia chasing an officer in the background? Or Wickham slyly flattering some young woman? Such instances would have helped fill in the rest of the story.

And for those unfamiliar with Miss Austen’s text, these characters’ important contributions to the story were confusing at best. Instead we witnessed several regimented dances behind the action, engaging in their way, but perhaps not as useful to the story.

Many of these characters also appeared oddly restrained. While maintaining the proper fastidious figure of 1832 is indeed important, those truly ridiculous characters can and should be demonstrative.

Their very character (Mr. Collins, Mary Bennet and Lydia Bennet) allows them to bend the rules of decorum.

Nevertheless, I can, conscience appeased (now you know my opinion), commend this evening’s entertainment. The play runs for a fortnight, and it is advised one purchase their necessary admittance before too late.

For, in the end, a fine narrative will always gratify the desires we have not only for a entertainment that distracts the mind, but that which elevates it, asks it to ponder questions of love, of family, of community and of our place and duty in them.

Miss Austen will always have wisdom to share about these elements of our human life. And the theatrics of Calvin’s Theatre Company give, once again, a worthy voice to her words.