Join Kate Hamill and cast for a new kind of dinner party and show experience at the Hudson Valley Theater’s new release of Pride & Prejudice.
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Regency Stage Adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Last night was quite a magical evening as our JASNA NY Metro group boarded a bus from Manhattan and journeyed to Garrison, NY, to the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival to see the opening preview of Kate Hamill’s Pride and Prejudice. Last year at the Bedlam Theater, Ms. Hamill starred in her first Austen adaptation, Sense and Sensibility. This summer season she has brought Austen’s most popular story to a summertime venue that boasts of magnificent views within the setting of the breathtaking Boscobel estate, to offer this serene and atmospheric setting for her original stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
After exiting the bus and arriving at the glorious grounds of the Boscobel estate where a gigantic tent has been set-up to serve as the show’s playhouse, we gathered onto the great lawn and settled into our picnic dinners, ready to enjoy our gourmet salads. Our event was made even more delightful as we enjoyed a special pre-show talk with playwright Kate Hamill herself. Our members had the opportunity to hear from Kate as she described to us the process of adapting a story that is so well-known to so many people, including the challenges of staying true to Austen’s intentions while creating a show that’s entertaining and inspiring in all of its delivery. Kate graciously answered all of our members’ questions, while also providing us with some insights into a few of her other upcoming projects. She gave us a few warnings about the revisions she’s made to her adaptation as she pursued the challenges of bringing Austen to the stage, which included her decision to remove some characters from canon from her cast, such as Kitty Bennet. It was really a treat to spend time with the star of this show as she was preparing to deliver her first performance before a live audience. I really would like to thank Kate Hamill for spending time with our JASNA group and for bringing Austen to the stage in a way that is clever, creative, and soulful.
From the very first scene, a bellowing Mrs. Bennet is heard running towards the stage from a distance, shouting that she has news to deliver to her girls, I got a sense that while this show is rooted in Austen’s work, Kate Hamill has clearly made it her own in way that I think will resonate with all kinds of Austen fans! Starting with the Meryton assembly, the audience was offered the first taste of the musical integration that was carefully selected for this show, which was a blend of older and newer modern-day songs that did a delightful job highlighting and expanding upon the satirical nature of Austen’s story. I loved each and every musical selection!
Naturally, I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I think that the genius of the show was really about the casting choices. Kate Hamill does a lovely job as Austen’s heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, even though she does play the role differently from other adaptations that I have seen. She’s snarky and she’s conflicted, as she struggles to solve the puzzle of who Mr. Darcy really is throughout the show. Her performance is also playful and witty at times, yet the overall performance is clearly her own brand of the legendary Bennet sister. I think viewers will find her emotive and thoughtful performance quite more than “tolerable!”
Jason O’Connell, who played Edward Farrar’s in Hamill’s Sense and Sensibility last year has been cast in the leading role of Mr. Darcy, a casting decision I was rooting for since last fall. I love this casting choice because not only does Jason have a strong resemblance to Austen’s beloved hero, he also has the capability of bringing the numerous facets of Mr. Darcy’s personality to his performance. I think his chemistry with Kate Hamill infused the show with the right amount of romance, drama, and humor.
The supporting characters do a great job staying true to the spirit of Austen’s characters as they shift back and forth between playing multiple roles. Without giving too much away, I will say that the performances of Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet, Mary Bennett, and Caroline Bingley bring to the show a great combination of satire and slapstick comedy. Let’s just say I will never think of Mary Bennet in the same way again! I laughed so hard, along with the rest of the audience throughout many parts of the show. I truly felt like each cast member brought something wonderful to the show and was well-suited for his/her parts.
There are some popular supporting characters from canon who aren’t in the show, such as Kitty Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam, which is understandable given the constraints of adapting Austen for the stage. While I don’t believe many will miss Kitty, there may be some who would have liked to have seen the Colonel receive at least a minor role in the show. Kate also makes the show her own by revising some storylines from canon, as well as many of the dialogues, including the infamous proposal scene at Hunsford. I also caught a few places where she inserted quotes from Austen’s own letters into the dialogues, and these were well done too. While I enjoyed watching how these changes would unfold in her adaptation, I’d be interested to hear how other Janeites experienced these revisions too.
As soon as the show was over, I was eagerly recalling with my friends which songs were included in the show so that I could attempt to make a Spotify playlist of these songs to relive some of my favorite moments from the show, and to share with you as well. Will I be traveling to the Hudson Valley to see the show again this summer? You bet I will! I know Kate and the cast are eager for feedback about last night’s performance and I have a good feeling the show will only get better over time. Kudos to Kate Hamill for displaying the courage of Elizabeth Bennet to not only adapt Austen’s most popular story for the stage, but to adapt it in a way that I believe will appeal to Austen fans, old and new, in a way that’s fun, imaginative, and bold.
I’d like to thank all of the wonderful people who attended this event with our JASNA group, as well as Emma Corey and Kate Hamill, who planned a truly delightful outing for us. I believe your choice of location will only enhance the appeal of this show and allow hundreds of other people to experience their own Austentatious adventure!
The tent before and after the show…
Views from the grounds
(If anyone remembers more song selections from the show, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
It’s Giveaway Time!!!
I have a program from the show signed by most of the cast members, including Kate Hamill and Jason O’Connell, to giveaway to one Just Jane 1813 reader, including my international readers. Please leave a comment below this post by midnight ET on June 30th. The winner will be announced on this blog on July 1, 2017.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this show. Are you planning to visit any Austen adaptations this year? I’d love to hear all about your plans in the comments below!