The enduring appeal of Jane Austen has been done a remarkably good turn by Kate Hamill, the author of this charming contemporary adaptation of the author’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice. With a few deft touches and a great deal of respect for the strength of the original text, Hamill has created an evening-length theatrical version that captures the heart of the love story without sacrificing any of its astringent ironies. The excellent cast clearly thrives under the direction of Westmont theater department chair Mitchell Thomas, and the show is among the most satisfying productions yet from this powerhouse of a college drama program.
As Elizabeth Bennet, Cierra Denning is a marvel of multiplicity and coherence. She manages to straddle the ever-widening gulf in the material between romantic hope and enlightened proto-feminist despair. The other Bennet family members include Alex Gabriel as the glamorous older sister Jane, Olivia Stowell as the impudent Lydia, and William Blondell (yes, you read that right) as the long-suffering sister Mary.
I know you have all been waiting for news of the crucial role of Mr. Darcy, and the word is good — Sean McElrath discharges the arrogant heartthrob part with singular aplomb. The evening’s biggest laughs, as well as its most uncomfortable squirms, come courtesy of Justin Sharp, who provides an unforgettable Mr. Collins. The choreography by Victoria Finlayson adds to the overall effect of unsurpassable fun in the greatest love story ever told.