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13Nov

Best written reviews for “Pride and Prejudice” performed by St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia. Reviewed on November 10, 2023.

Justin Pokrant

Westfield High School

 

Amidst the splendor of swanky ballrooms and budding romance, five sisters and four suitors whisked the audience into a world of petticoats and parley. St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School’s production of Pride and Prejudice gave a glimpse into the riveting social scene of Regency England.

 

Originally penned by pioneering author Jane Austen in 1813 and adapted by Jon Jory, Pride and Prejudice navigates the nuanced ordeals of manners and matrimony. Securing a suitor was far from Elizabeth Bennet's primary pursuit in life; however, surrounded by ostentatious sisters and an overzealous matchmaking mother, sidestepping the subject proved impossible. When Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy entered Elizabeth’s world, he was met with much disdain, but amid sumptuous soirées and familial follies, love blossomed, and the two overcame their titular obstacles as they learned to dance a metaphorical duet of wit and warmth.

 

Bringing life to Elizabeth Bennet, Charlotte Nichols was a force of feeling, each line delivered with a touch of strength and spunk, not to mention an unshakable British accent. Whether talking to sisters or suitors, Nichols developed distinctly refined relationships with all the actors, perhaps the most dynamic of which was with Max Gehlhoff as Mr. Darcy. Just as Darcy’s demeanor softened from standoffish to sociable, so too did the distance between Nichols and Gehlhoff; and at the ball, the pair even managed to maintain dialogue during complex step sequences.

 

By her sister’s side, Gabriella Miller Milow infused Jane Bennet with an inviting spirit, and when a spiteful sister-in-law tried to smother her sweet soul with a wicked letter, Miller Milow’s heartbreak was subtle yet striking. On the other hand, Elizabeth Rutter portrayed Mrs. Bennet with a flamboyant flare, one that could not be extinguished even when her microphone momentarily cut out. Rutter may have been holding the family together in a frenzied hullabaloo, but her husband, Mr. Bennet, played by Charles McElwain, maintained order with his mellow presence, especially when things went haywire in the Bennet household. But what’s a story without a bad guy? Enter: Lucas Kalo as Reverend Collins. From facing rejection to running out of the ballroom, Kalo was always perfectly pompous, pretentious, and oh-so preoccupied with propriety.

 

Clearly, the cast worked well together, but such cohesion would not be possible without a committed crew. Hoping to further immerse the audience in an enriching auditory experience, Tate Commission arranged, recruited, and rehearsed with three other student musicians. Perhaps the prop piano was left unplayed; however, the string quartet—in costume, and all—quite literally set the tempo for many musical scenes. Speaking of costumes, Indira Brown, Elona Michael, Cate Nickson, and Grace Hendy worked hard to pull historically accurate pieces. From bonnets to boutonnieres, suits to scarves, all costume pieces were carefully chosen to reflect class and character. Finally, since the entire ensemble made great use of their space, the lighting team had to work overtime. Wyatt Stanton, Arleigh Womack, and Ryiee Michael created and controlled 73 lighting cues, and whether actors were strutting across the stage or sashaying through the aisles, a spotlight was always ready for any occasion.

 

St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School’s production of Pride and Prejudice would take any audience from “admiration, to love, to matrimony”, weaving together the whimsies of love, status, and the triumph of true tenderness over societal squabbles.


Ellen Lawton

Hendon High School

 

Perhaps the most wicked of the seven deadly sins is Pride. It haunted Greek heroes in ancient times, sending Achilles to his downfall, causing Icarus to fly too close to the sun. But in a slightly more modern epic, it sets off one of the greatest love stories of all time. Welcome to Pride and Prejudice, performed by St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School.

 

Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, gained critical attention and immediately propelled its author to fame. The story, set in Regency era England, is simple enough: two people meet and form an instant dislike of each other. By the end of the book, however, they have cast aside their initial impressions and fallen in love. The tale of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is one of the most popular examples of the trope “enemies-to-lovers.” Underpinning the main plot like a pair of pantaloons, is Elizabeth’s eccentric family, Mr. Darcy’s shadowy past, and all the wit either a nineteenth or twenty-first century audience could require. When Jon Jory adapted the novel for the stage in 2006, the story only increased in popularity.

 

St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School's production was as quick and clever as Austen herself could have wished. The whole cast, whether they were stage crew dressed as servants or ladies adorned in lace finery, helped to piece together a story defined by precision. Even in the background, characters followed contemporary etiquette rules, dancing with specific people and shaking hands in a certain order. It all helped to construct the tense social ties of the superb tale.

 

At the center of every scene, standing with her head held high, was Charlotte Nichols as Elizabeth Bennet. She gave a poised, yet passionate performance. When speaking at society balls or in sitting rooms, her manner was mild, but her voice grew to a shout and her hands flew to wilder gestures in moments of anger or exasperation. When rejecting Mr. Darcy (Max Gehlhoff)’s first proposal, she trembled with fury, pointed a finger in his face, and denounced his name.

 

The transition in the relationship between Nichols and Gehlhoff was a wonder to behold. Their initial sharp exchanges, frosty silence, and deliberate distance from each other gave way to a tangible tension. The air was taut with excitement as Gehlhoff finally took Nichols’ hand at a ball. Similarly close with Nichols was her sister Jane (Gabriella Miller Milow), and the two had a natural ease with each other. Miller Milow shifted from bashfully blushing to visibly distraught in a tense scene where she received news that her love, Mr. Bingley (Tyler Troy), had left. She clutched a letter to her chest and looked toward the audience in mute desperation.

 

Further embroidering the tapestry of social connection was the costume department (Indira Brown, Elona Michael, Cate Nickson, Grace Hendy), whose work helped wordlessly communicate status and personality. Nichols, for instance, was dressed in a demure dark green, whereas her flirtatious younger sisters bustled about in bright baby blue. Just as detailed was the work of the hair and makeup department (Grace Hendy, Emerson Belle-Dufault, Indira Brown, Tyler Troy), whose extensive research into regency hairstyles paid off. Many of the carefree characters had loose curls framing their faces, while Elizabeth’s more serious style saw her hair pulled back tightly with a ribbon.

 

Every little piece helped the show come together into a beautiful, heartfelt puzzle. As the saying goes, pride comes before the fall… but as St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School showed, the ‘fall’ may just be a tumble of head over heels into love.

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