“If you think this is going to be a stiff period piece, think again. It’s loony and silly,” said the Director of "Pride and Prejudice" and Mississippi State University English professor, Michele Crescenzo
Crescenzo offered this insight after the opening night of “Pride and Prejudice.” Starkville Community Theatre (SCT) started off strong with this play as the first production of their 42nd season. American actress Kate Hamill wrote this comedic adaption of the famous Jane Austen novel, depicting the institution of marriage in 18th century England. The entire performance is charming, sincere and delightfully hysterical. This production shifts away from the drab stiffness of the initial story and becomes re-contextualized for modern audiences. This change, coupled with excellent dedication from the performers, results in a fantastic romance that will leave watchers in stitches.
The first act opens with placid cordial dancing which is quickly interrupted with a cowbell. This serves as the perfect introduction to the tonal shift, shocking the audience. Brilliant comedic timing, expressive line delivery and hilarious sound effects heighten the laughter emanating from the crowd. Distinct character introductions quickly define their beliefs, the setting and their personal stakes. Characters go to great lengths to express their dialogue, which is peppered with great jokes and wit. Ultimately, the first act serves as an incredibly entertaining experience. The intermission cuts the performance in half, but does not stop the audience from chuckling and repeating their favorite bits.
Once the second act begins, things take a serious left turn. Drama was delicately woven into the narrative while everyone was laughing. By the time you notice where things are heading, the weight of the impact hits everyone like a flipping carriage. As the production proceeds, the sin of pride and the stain of prejudice becomes obvious to the audience. The theme resonates with palpable tension, evolving into a beautiful romance. Once the final words are spoken, everything comes together into an emotional package that leaves the viewer wanting more.
There are flashes of local identity that come with the set, complete with cowbells and current newspapers. These nods only add to the absurdity and charm of the story by making it resonate with the Starkville community. The set decoration offers a simplistic glimpse into the lives of these English characters. The props and set design may be simple, but it is all the better for it. It does not distract from the story and gives the performers more space to emote, react and bring their characters to full force. Some serious thought and wit went into how necessary each item was to the characters’ identity. The costume designs were charming, with fun distinct quirks like the individual necklaces for the Bennet daughters. Each wardrobe choice screams the personality of the cast member’s character, leading the audience to instantly know what they should expect.
The entire cast deserves full admiration and praise for their performances. Eden Bedsaul, Emma Brooks, Tate Fancher, Madeline Golden, Katelyn Mathis and Brittany Page exceptionally portray the Bennet family. This madcap bunch interact and bounce off each-other exactly like most households. Louie P. Gallo, Allyn Hackman and Hayden Manning bridge the Bennet’s chaos with heavy societal aspects. They reel the characters back into the harsh reality of the time period. Many of the cast members portray multiple characters, adding to the awe of their performances. They each bring subtle elements that force the audience to fall in love with them. Every desire and struggle connect in some way with the audience, either delightfully or disturbingly. This cast shifts gracefully between playful banter and calculated poise with a projected confidence that is sure to astound the audience.
Tate Fancher is a senior psychology major at MSU and was cast in the production as Mr. Bingley and Mary Bennet.
“Theatre is the most exhausting thing that I love to do,” Fancher said.
Starkville Community Theatre took on a serious challenge with this rendition. Some of the subject matter could have been misconstrued if performed by less-competent actors. Without the full exertion of the cast and the production crew, the weight of this performance would have been a harsher endeavor. Thankfully, the creativity and skill on display with this project melds beautifully together into a production that both theatre and comedy lovers do not want to miss.