The Theatre Group at SBCC’s production of "Emma" by Kate Hamill, based on the novel by Jane Austen. Through October 28, 2023, Garvin Theatre. | Photo: Courtesy

The SBCC Theatre Group’s production of Emma (by Kate Hamill, directed by Katie Laris) is a charming comedic take on Jane Austen’s novel. Hamill’s writing style involves the modernization of language and behavior despite keeping the characters in their original context — in this case, the early 19th-century English countryside. Her adaptations are a clever way to examine old classics with a current worldview, emphasizing social constructs that have evolved in 200 years — and those that remain stagnant.

Emma explores the waste of potential in the savvy, well-educated woman of the 19th century. Without professions, and with servants to handle most tasks, these women are bored to death. Emma resorts to meddling in her peers’ romantic narratives to keep her mind tasked, which creates amusing, petty dramas within her circle of friends. 

The pleasure of SBCC’s production is partially due to excellent casting: Frank Churchill (Luke Hamilton) is appropriately charming with a dash (or more) of country-club swagger; and Mr. Elton (Mario Guerrero) is a delightful shade of goofy that briskly over-ripens to repugnance — a good choice for a character the audience is meant to disdain. Mr. Knightley (Clayton Barry) is eager, foppish, and “old money,” and Emma (Lexie Brent) knows she should be sly about her sass, but is too demonstrative and robust to truly represent the ladylike ideals of the time. Even characters with very little stage time crush their moments: Old Mrs. Bates (Sue Smiley) steals scenes and Mrs. Elton (Lana Kanen) is unforgettable as Elton’s back-up bride with the garish guffaw.

Unbeholden to a narrative style that emphasizes brevity, SBCC’s Emma ambles at a pleasant pace, casually snarling and unraveling the interpersonal conflicts amongst the bachelors and bachelorettes of the local village. Hamill’s Emma sticks to the Austen story but presents it with a contemporary sense of humor. The show runs at the Garvin Theatre through October 28.

See for tickets and more information. 


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