At Lifeline Theatre
Based on the novel by Jane Austen
Adapted by Christina Calvit
Directed by Elise Kauzlaric
Jane Austen would be proud
Even before he is ultimately smitten, Darcy, the proud, arrogant, Byronic hero of Pride and Prejudice comments on Elizabeth Bennet’s fine eyes. There can be no finer eyes, or eyes used more effectively than those of Laura McClain in the role of Elizabeth at Lifeline Theatre. What speaking eyes she has: rolling them to express amusement, casting them down in dismay, or glaring out of them in fury. She is a most talented and expressive Elizabeth, a perfect foil for the haughty, arrogant Darcy, nailed in that role by Dennis Grimes. The duo exhibit great casting for this star-crossed pair as they hurtle towards the inevitable outcome. Grimes maintains his stiff stance and haughty sneer throughout, only relaxing when breaking into a most welcome smile at the romantic resolution.
Lifeline presents Austen’s work at its finest, offering a smashing closing production to its 29th season.
Those in the audience could (and sometimes did) recite familiar lines (softly to themselves). Many will doubtless also attend the Jane Austen Society Spring Gala at the Knickerbocker Hotel next Saturday
But one doesn’t have to be an Austen enthusiast to enjoy the play, or to admire how skillfully it is staged. It is a constant source of amazement to note how much Lifeline does with so little — here, in limited space; there are residences, ballrooms, the lawns of an estate. Kudos to scenic designer Melania Lancy.
And of course, the story is delicious — as always — with the shrill, silly mother (Cameron Feagin) determined to marry off her five daughters; the father who fails to lead his family wisely (Don Bender); lovely but overly conservative oldest daughter Jane (Amanda Drinkall); her next sister, the bright, articulate Elizabeth; the younger girls (Kristy Rivett as Lydia, Kelsey Jorissen as Kitty and Cassidy Shea Stirtz as Mary) ) and, of course, the inimitable, unctuous clergy man who stands to inherit it all, Mr. Collins (Phil Timberlake). Add to this mix the highly (financially) desirable Mr. Bingley (Micah J.LK. Kronlokken), swashbuckling Mr. Wickham (James Gasper), practical spinster Charlotte Lucas (Chelsea Paice) and the overbearing Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Jan Sodaro) and you are in the midst of a charming cast of characters, played to the hilt in this comedy of manners. They bring to life Austen’s contribution to literature: her response to the overly romantic tradition, her focus on works that replace false sentiment and strained romance to shine the light of realism on a domestic world — and all with great linguistic skill.
In this adaption, Christina Calvit, captures every nuance. She goes beyond dialogue, to incorporate lines where author speaks to reader — as Elizabeth does just that in the play — beginning with what is perhaps the most famous opening sentence of any English novel: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. As Elizabeth speaks, she is interrupted several times, giving these famous words even more weight and humor as they set the stage for all the follows.
Lifeline’s production captures all the high moments of the novel, missing not a beat: the ball where Catherine and Darcy meet, Elizabeth’s the two great and contrasting proposals – from Collins and Darcy, all the wonderful confrontations.
My bumper sticker reads.”I’d rather be reading Jane Austen” but this should be expanded to add, “Or seeing a Lifeline adaptation!”
Beverly Friend, Ph.D.
For more info checkout the Pride and Prejudice page at theatreinchicago.com
Note: For more information on the Jane Austen Society of America (Greater Chicago Region).
Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood, www.lifelinetheatre.com, 773-761-4477, Tickets $32-35 ($26 for seniors, $20 for students with ID’s, and for rush tickets a half hour before show time, if available), runs Thursdays and Fridays at 7 :30 p.m., Saturdays and 4 and 8 p.m., Sundays at 4 p.m. through June 10. Run time two and half hours with a ten-minute intermission. Post Show Discussions: May 13, 27 and July 8, 2012.