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Theater Review: Trinity Rep's 'Pride And Prejudice' Isn't Your Grandmother's Jane Austen

Trinity Rep opens its theater season with a rollicking, all out version of “Pride and Prejudice.” The Public Radio’s Bill Gale says once you get by all the wacko stuff, you just might go for this all-out production.

Okay, lets say it right away. If you are a lover (and many people are) of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel of love and need, you just may want to bolt out of Trinity’s wildly and ever stretched production. After all, this is a new take that features – among many other oh-so-changed ideas – a musical base and great drive. There’s lots of singing, lots of dancing, all done in the most raucous, driven way.

It shows us men playing women and, even more striking, women playing men. It allows one usually minor character to take over the show albeit with wonderfully goofy and in-your- face singing, and general fooling about.

This two hours and a half production of drive and over-the-hill goofiness is filled with gorgeous costumes even as they are work’s of ever-forced art that would surely turn Ms. Austen’s mind around, a lot. And all of that was my first look at this production by writer/actor Kate Hamill.

Whatever is going on here? was my initial thought, again and again. This is the story of one of the world’s most respected views of people struggling, sometimes failing, but always trying.

But then, once you’ve gotten past the what-is-this-business? you begin to see the drive and well thought out changes that are, somehow, working on you. You begin to enjoy the wonderful drive of this ever-moving cast.

There’s Janice Duclos playing the mother of four oh-so-difficult daughters. Yes, there were five in the novel. But here four is plenty and Duclos is a wonderfully snap-ish and yet loving mother.

As her hubby, a grumpy father, Richard Donelly is right-on fine, both strong and worn out. But, then, you see him suddenly turn into one Charlotte, wearing a gorgeous if wacky gown and making him a female to be watched and laughed with.

Then, there’s a wildly funny Joe Wilson Jr. careening from Mr. Collins to Miss Bingley -- and back numerous times and –well – you’ve just have to go along with this provocative but closely thought out production.

Now we get to the heart of “Pride and Prejudice.” There’s Trinity’s Rachael Warren playing Mr. Darcy. Her hair shortened she easily gives you an idea of a male person who doesn’t really know himself among all of his grumpy complaints. It a serious change but Ms. Warren carries it well. And at the end, you’re so glad to see this troubled man find the safety of a women who cares.

That would be Trinity’s Rebecca Gibel who’s marvelous as the center of the story, a young women who thinks she knows it all but doesn’t like much of it. It’s amazing how her turn to love and caring is affecting. You move from not quite liking the young women to being thrilled by her change.

All of this is led by director and choreographer Brigitta Victorson who has somehow tackled this certainly new look at an old and cherished story. She has made it new, made it live again.

That’s a major undertaking. So, if you are not a die-hard lover of ‘Pride and Prejudice” give this new view a look. It’s sometimes odd, sometimes maybe a little too far. But it’s also a new way to see an old story brought to life, once again.

“Pride and Prejudice” continues at Trinity Rep through November 4th at Trinity Rep in Providence. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for The Public’s Radio.

Rachael Warren as Mr. Darcy and Rebecca Gibel as Lizzy Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. By Kate Hamill, adapted from the novel by Jane Austen.
Rachael Warren as Mr. Darcy and Rebecca Gibel as Lizzy Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. By Kate Hamill, adapted from the novel by Jane Austen.