Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice, reviewed by Wendy Rosenfield. Written by Jon Jory, adapted from Jane Austen's novel. Produced by Hedgerow Theatre, directed by Jared Reed.

Review: Pride and Prejudice


By Wendy Rosenfield

for the Inquirer

Hedgerow Theatre honors the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s second published novel, Pride and Prejudice, with Jon Jory’s faithful 2006 stage adaptation. While Sense and Sensibility currently gathers buzz in musical theater circles, Jory, founder of that great American springboard for new work, the Humana Festival of New American Plays, presents a slightly scaled-back, farce-leaning version of Austen’s witty stroll among the marriage-minded gentry--landed, tenanted or landed-aspirant-by-any-means-necessary. 

When a military regiment and a pair of noble gentlemen spend the summer in the vicinity of the Bennet family and their five unwed daughters, romance ensues. Led by spirited Elizabeth, the Bennets’ second-oldest, we are introduced to the tantalizingly emotionally distant Mr. Darcy, prototype for many, many feminine fantasies, and witness the full-flowering of the modern independent-minded young woman. (She’s so modern, the 21st century saw her return in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an adaptation of the novel in which Elizabeth wields a mean walker-decapitating katana.)

Much like Austen’s book, Jory’s script spends most of its time introducing relations and following protocol, and sees frustratingly little interaction between its many young lovers. And, like the book, when they finally do meet face-to-face (particularly Rebecca Cureton’s Elizabeth and Carl N. Smith’s Darcy) sparks fly. 

As directed by Jared Reed, much of the ensemble carry multiple roles, and because most of this cast is quite young, the production feels a bit like a school play--particularly when the actors, generally strong as their teen counterparts, later hobble around in shawl and cane with quavering voice. But the central issue with this pleasant-enough effort is Zoran Kovcic’s set, a simple white curtain, cornice and half-dozen cheap-looking, poorly upholstered stools. 

Jory calls instead for a half-dozen doors--emphasizing the story’s farcical elements and speeding the action--along with far more substantial furniture. Remember, these are the Regency drawing rooms and ballrooms of Austen’s class-conscious England, and Kovcic’s minimalism, despite Cathie Miglionico’s lovely empire-waisted gowns and tailcoats, dampens the production’s entire tone. But Austen burns too bright to be snuffed out entirely. Sometimes, a sharp wit cuts deeper than a katana, and Cureton wields that spirit steadily and with a twinkle in her eye.

Playing at: Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Rd., Media. Through Sunday, June 16. Tickets: $10 to $32. Information: 610-565-4211 or

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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