Abigail Bailey Maupin, Mollie Murk, & Brittany “BeeBee” Patillo in Pride & Prejudice. Photo: Bill Brymer.
Pride and Prejudice
By Kate Hamill
Based on the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Amy Attaway
A review by Tory Parker
Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Tory Parker. All rights reserved.
You all aren’t going to believe this, but at the start of this play, the couple that will become our OTP (One True Pairing) (You didn’t read fanfic in 2010??) (That’s not my problem.) actually start out as ENEMIES. And through a series of misunderstandings—some genuine, some due to an overextension of pride and (you guessed it) prejudice—they eventually become lovers. I’m not going to walk you through the plot of this play. If you haven’t read the universally beloved novel, or watched either the 1995 BBC miniseries starring Colin Firth or the 2005 feature film with Keira Knightley by now, then that’s actually on you.
But if you’re a fan of any of those? Or if you’re a fan of Austen in general. Or if you’re a fan of Bridgerton. Or if you’re a fan of romantic comedies. Or if you’re even just a RABID fan of Kentucky Shakespeare—this is for you.
You might recognize the name Kate Hamill from earlier this fall—she wrote the adaptation of Dracula performed this season at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Adapting beloved but sometimes belabored works is sort of her thing. And she does it with humor, panache, wit, and—evidence would declare—one brutal, heart-wrenching moment specifically for Abigail Maupin.
This adaptation is especially clever in its double and triple casting, keeping most of the cast on their feet with quick changes and juggling voices and mannerisms for characters all across the spectrum. Everyone in the cast was magnificent in their multiple roles, but both Justin Jackson and Neill Robertson ran away with the crowd in their pockets with their depictions of Mary Bennet and Caroline Bingley/Mr. Collins respectively.
In the mythos that’s developed around her, Jane Austen’s humor can often get overshadowed. Negating the humor of a story that includes characters such as Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Colins does a disservice to one of the greatest writers of all time, and for the most part Hamill’s adaptation pays respect to Austen’s humor and tone with just touches of extra theatricality for spice. Only a fool would believe that modern witticisms are necessary to enhance the comedic writing of Jane Austen. (This is a dig at the Netflix adaptation of Persuasion. Which sucks.)
But more so iconic than her comedic characters are Austen’s heroines, and there is none so beloved as Lizzie Bennet. She is obstinate, headstrong, not-like-other-girls, bookish and filthy (her hem! 6 INCHES DEEP IN MUD, CHARLES), witty, charming, and sometimes so oblivious you wonder how she makes her way across the room. And her perfect match? Is a socially awkward, shy, Lurch-looking rich man who says mean things to her face and does nice things behind her back. In the 210 years since her novel came out, Darcy and Elizabeth have been yaas-ified into some magical, perfect pairing. They’re the literary Prom King and Queen. But Hamill gets it—she knows that these two weirdos aren’t perfect. They’re not even perfect for each other. But they see each other better than the world sees them, and they love each other for those things.
I say, with all love and affection, Mollie Murk and Zachary Burrell play these two horrifically maladjusted outsiders to perfection. They are sharp and biting and tender and sweet. They are messy and awkward, fumbling with their overwhelming and wholly-new feelings, with more love than they have—up to this point—known what to do with.
Attaway and this troop of some of Kentucky Shakespeare’s brightest stars kept this play, which crams what feels fast in a 6 hour long mini series into 2 hours, bubbling and singing with energy, but never rushed. The audience was laughing and swooning, fully knowing what to expect, but surprised and delighted by the effervescence of the production. To look around the crowd and see what were undoubtedly multiple generations enjoying a play together, many of them likely reveling in a tale they’ve enjoyed 100 times, some of them maybe getting to experience it for the very first time, it is a testament to the power of a good story, well told.
This run is short—practically in the middle before we knew we’d begun—but don’t miss it!
Featuring Zachary Burrell, Justin Jackson, Abigail Bailey Maupin, Gregory Maupin, Mollie Murk, Brittany “BeeBee” Patillo, Jennifer Pennington, Neill Robertson
Pride and Prejudice
January 4 – 8, 2023
Kentucky Performing Arts – Bomhard Theatre
501 West Main Street, Louisville, KY
Tory Parker, originally from West Virginia, is now a proud Kentuckian as well. In Louisville, she’s worked and/or performed with Claddagh Theatre Company, the Chamber Theatre, Bellarmine University, Wayward Actors Company, Derby City Playwrights, Company Outcast and director Emily Grimany. As a playwright, her original works appeared in the National Women’s Theatre Festival in their 2020 and 2021 Fringe Festivals.