I love my books and I like good adaptations of them as movies, plays, musicals, television series, etc. So, when my Deutschlehrerin casually told me that she was going to watch Pride & Prejudice I went, literally, berserk. How could I have not known about it?!
A little theater company called the Lifeline Theatre was putting up a two month production of Pride & Prejudice - the third in its history. Naturally, I didn't care where it was (just a half-hour ride on the CTA Red Line, so that was good) or how much the tickets cost (a reasonably priced ticket actually), I looked for a weekend when I would be able to attend, not even bothering to consult the guests I was supposed to be hosting last evening, and got my tickets.
I was excited, but a bit subdued. No use getting my hopes up only to be disappointed, I told myself. This is, after all, my most beloved book ever. Nothing else that I have read in the thirteen years since has compared to Miss Austen's writing. North & South comes a close second in the genre, but over all, P & P has never been ousted from it's position of 'No. 1 Favorite of All Time'. Thankfully, it wasn't to be so.
It was a small stage, very well setup, with a cast of ten - some playing multiple roles. It begins as it should -
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife."
And for two and a half hours - with a break after the first act, which ends with the Bingley quitting Netherfield - one is treated to the very story that has given rise to many a fantasy, for women, to find their own Mr. Darcy. There are several scenes from the book that are cut out, and characters remain unused, but it isn't noticeable in the flow of the adaptation. The essence of satire and drama, the very ones that Miss Austen intended bring out in her works, are retained admirably. The actors were good - each of them taking on their characters easily. You could believe that they are the ones from the book. Of course I wished it were Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, because he is my favorite Mr. Darcy, but this performance didn't leave me wanting for more. The script stayed honest to the lines from the book - I caught myself reciting with the actors many a time - and some added jibes which had a very Austen-esque feel to it.
An aspect that very few plays take into consideration is the audience participation - mainly because the actors shouldn't be distracted - but this one did it well. Elizabeth Bennett speaks to the audience, not necessarily expecting a response, just as Austen speaks to the readers occasionally.
I had the added advantage of sitting in a corner of the very first row and could see every actor and every part of the stage with great clarity. It was like being a part of the whole story once more. I could imagine the grounds of Pemberley, the Netherfield ballroom and the assembly rooms at Meryton with ease, just using the characters as puppets in my imagination. That's what you're supposed to do, right? ;)
Fact remains that the book is always better, no argument there from any quarter, and it isn't exactly easy to adapt anyway. At least, into a stage performance. For that the adaptor and director have my congratulations. They've done it justice - and it isn't very easy to satisfy die-hard Austen fans.
A short talk with the director and a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, which was also attended by the principal cast members - Mr. Darcy, Eliza Bennett and Mr. Bingley, was a good way to end an enjoyable evening.
I have now discovered another gem within the city and I know I will return for more.