McLean High School
Open a copy of "Pride and Prejudice" and you might find densely-packed pages full of sophisticated language and plot upon subplot, with the intrigue and romance seemingly hidden underneath, but at Flint Hill School they dusted off the shelves to produce a sweetly sincere stage adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" that left the audience sparkling with fulfillment.
Many are well-acquainted with the narrative of "Pride and Prejudice", not only from the book, but also from the countless TV and movie adaptations of this ageless story since its publication in 1813. Jane Austen's light-hearted romantic comedy has undergone multiple stage adaptations. Flint Hill performed a newer stage adaptation by Paula K. Parker, whose main purpose was to maintain the integrity of Jane Austen's original work. Set at a time when a woman was judged by her countenance, manners, and accomplishments, the play follows Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters, who struggle to navigate the intricacies of Georgian Era social expectations. With the prodding of an opportunistic mother, the girls become entangled in encounters full of love and hate when two rich, eligible bachelors arrive to the area.
Throughout the show, the cast maintained an air of propriety and decorum, with a few notable exceptions due to character choices. Members of the cast were able to delve deeper into the social commentary when they showed raw emotion. Notable was the juxtaposition of various characters and relationships. From the subtle gestures of some and the boisterous nature of others, the cast effectively elicited chuckles and gasps from the audience.
The quick-witted Elizabeth Bennet, regarded as very sensible, was portrayed by Alexandra "Sasha" Wai. Alexandra effectively toed the fine line between fiery and reserved, passionate and composed. She embodied her character with each eye roll and icy look. George Moacdieh as Mr. Darcy truly earned the admiration of the audience. Beginning with deliberate and cold physicality, Moacdieh accurately portrayed the "odious" Mr. Darcy, but became increasingly lovable as his ardor for Elizabeth intensified. In Act Two, the final scene between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth was particularly striking. Both actors exuded intense energy and passion, enrapturing the audience when the fervor rose to a fever pitch.
Standout performances included Ansley Bryan as the manipulative sister Caroline Bingley, who acted her part with a devious zest. Even when not the focus of the scene, Bryan directed her attention with precision, so the audience could clearly identify her feelings. Mr. Bennet (Thomas Norberg) and Mrs. Bennet (Hannah Khan) both played off each other's opposing personalities with refreshing humor. Mr. Collins and his patron Lady Catherine de Bourgh played by Andrew Hamilton and Julianne Cuevo, respectively, were also sources of entertainment, through spot-on timing and physicality.
A commendable effort was displayed by the stage crew, who managed to maneuver large set pieces with precision, led by their stage manager Lily Kyser. Despite frequent scene changes, it was clear to the audience in what setting the action took place, from flower placement to window positions. Silhouettes of costumed crew members, accompanied with light instrumental music, exhibited the same polished postures as the actors, contributing to the proper atmosphere of the show.
Ever fastidious and cordial, Flint Hill School's production of "Pride and Prejudice" endearingly convinced the audience of the dangers of pride, and that they might want to read more Jane Austen.
HB Woodlawn Secondary Program
In the 19th century world of Pride and Prejudice, the way one is viewed by neighbors and family is of the utmost importance. Jane Austen argues through the attraction of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, deemed an unsuitable match by both their family circles, that one's happiness in love should come before the approval of others. Austen's beloved novel was first adapted into a play in 1936, and many versions of the script have since been produced, including a few notable movies, from the classic 1940 film to a 2016 thriller titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Although Flint Hill's production Paula K. Parker's 2012 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice did not have the benefit of an apocalyptic, zombified war zone to boost the energy of the show, the play held the attention of its audience through engaging comedy and emotional tension that demonstrated the exceptional range and strength of its actors.
Leading duo Elizabeth Bennet (Alexandra "Sasha" Wai) and Mr. Darcy (George Moacdieh) had powerful chemistry when together on the stage. Their character arcs worked in tandem as they evolved over the course of their relationship until their eventual proclamation of love that concluded the play felt almost inevitable. Everything about their interactions was purposeful, from the subtleties of their eye contact to the tension in every touch. Wai used her superb vocal control to demonstrate her character's witty humor and pessimistic disposition. The audience was drawn to her commitment to subdued physicalizing that highlighted the moments when she was caught off guard or her tranquility was broken.
Another standout performance was Ansley Bryan as Caroline Bingley. Bryan commanded the stage with her sass and pace of banter. She was consistently attuned to the actors around her and maintained a strong sense of Caroline Bingley's complicated relationships with every other character. Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Julianne Cuevo) captured the attention of the audience with her impressive facial expressions and decisive physical choices. Mrs. Bennet (Hannah Khan) brought a light-heartedness to the production with her dramatic portrayal of her character. Khan's playful repartee with Mr. Bennet (Thomas Norberg) was a hilarious break from the emotional drama of the script.
The Bennet family ensemble connected with one another in every scene, from the comedic bit of shutting up their overly-talkative sister with a chorus of "thank you, Mary!" to the hardship the family collectively faced when Lydia ran off with Mr. Wickham, damaging the Bennet family name.
The stage crew handled the show's many scene changes with ease. Each crew member was dressed in period-appropriate costume, and the specific lights and sound that accompanied each transition helped make them seamless. The costuming created a strong distinction between roles for the actors playing multiple parts, as well as indicating social class, which enhanced the important themes of class division that created the conflict of the show.
Flint Hill showcased its outstanding talent in an engaging production of Pride and Prejudice that is sure to be remembered by its audience long after the curtain falls.