Community Theatre Review: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE with The Barn Playhouse

The Barn Playhouse revisits a classic love story for the ages with “Pride and Prejudice”

 

The Barn Playhouse in Jeffersonville, PA continues its season with the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice.  Not ever seeing or reading a Jane Austen work before but knowing of her huge following, I was excited to experience something new to me.  The romantic comedy takes place in the Regency era in early 19th century England and tells the story of the five unmarried Bennet sisters, each with their own distinct personality.  As this cheeky love story unfolds, we watch as the girls go on a journey to discover themselves as they seek suitors.  What the Bennet girls discover are worlds of different social classes, family influences and romance.

Under the direction of Deb Braak, the production mounted by the Barn Playhouse was a beautiful throwback to a time when living was simpler, but the complicated themes still ring true today.  The fine cast was certainly up to the difficult task of tackling the complex and witty script which is chocked full of intricate dialogue from days gone by.  The hard work the cast put in on the memorization of all the lines was evident as the conversations flowed seamlessly throughout.

Leading the cast is Sandy Lawler as daughter Elizabeth Bennet.  Lawler portrays her strong-willed and intelligent character with elegance and is a joy to watch onstage.  One of Austen’s most popular characters, Mr. Darcy, is played by Josh Keiter who shows a nice transition from the haughty snobbish socialite to eventually agreeable suitor for Lizzy.  The pair complement each other nicely and do a wonderful job of inviting the audience into their relationship as it shifts from one of mutual loathing to one of mutual respect and love.

While a majority of the play focuses on sister Elizabeth Bennet, it is her family members that are the driving force in this script.  Steve Schulz and Laura McWater lead the household as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and do so with great humor.  I particularly enjoyed McWater’s busybody enthusiasm as she flitted around the stage.  The remaining four sisters, Jane (Maddi Sloan), Mary (Lauren Kirchner), Lydia (Ashley Russo) and Kitty (Abby Gould) are all cast well and add much whimsy to each of their characters.   

A nice added touch to the show was the use of live musicians (under the direction of Barbara Newberry) and fanciful period choreography (by Andrea Forrest) which sets the stage, complete with joyous ballroom scenes.   This setting throws the audience member into a world of socialites and possible suitors for the sisters.  Matthew Thompson, who plays sister Jane’s likeable and amiable suitor, Mr. Bingley is joined by Lauren Kerstetter who does double duty as both Miss Caroline Bingley and Mrs. Gardiner.  Kerstetter understood both roles very well and played them with refinement.   The cast is completed by the engaging Michael Covel as Mr. Wickham, the comedic Bradley Moore as Mr. Collins/Sir William Lucas/Mr. Gardiner, Susan Bolt who commands the stage as Lady Catherine De Bourgh and neighbors and servants Andrea Cronin, Leanna Doyle, and Logan Salas who appear throughout emphasizing the certain air of social standing.

The set, adorned with a variety of simple empty picture frames and very minimal furniture, gives the illusion of grandiose households without the use of big, clunky set pieces and painted flats. I appreciated this very much and applaud designer Steve DiNenno for his creativity while not pulling the attention away from the action by utilizing giant set changes.  The simplicity worked perfectly.

Let yourself be whisked away with this retelling of this classic and romantic tale.  Pride and Prejudice continues at the Barn Playhouse through June 15th.  Reservations can be made by calling 610-539-BARN or by visiting their website www.barnplayhouse.org.

The Barn Playhouse
1700 Christopher Lane
Jeffersonville, PA

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