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Theater Review: “Pride and Prejudice”

“Pride and Prejudice” plays through June 16, 2019 at Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St. in Old Town.

Let’s face it, Jane Austen is an easy and obvious target for re-interpretation and comedy, even satire. Austen practically wrote the bible on late 18th- century English society, and was forward-looking enough to write about strong female characters with definite opinions they were not afraid to express. And she didn’t shy away from humor.

So I guess I have to give Kate Hamill a pass on her mile-a-minute version of “Pride and Prejudice,” directed by Rob Lutfy and playing through June 16 at Cygnet Theatre.

But it’s a struggle. Hamill has made a gleeful mishmash of the classic by having most of the actors play two or three characters – often of both genders. It gets a little difficult keeping track of who’s who, despite the costume clues. Only Jacque Wilke and Steven Lone are excepted, playing Lizzie and Darcy, respectively.

But Lutfy gets props for casting the show brilliantly, with talented and versatile actors capable of this nuttiness.

The plot remains the same: Mrs. Bennet (Shana Wride) is nearly unhinged in her rush to marry off her five daughters in order to keep the family’s Longbourn estate in family hands (only a male can inherit the property).

The list of husband candidates is pitifully small and mostly unattractive. Aside from Lone’s imperious Mr. Darcy – very rich and quite distant, not to mention socially awkward (let’s face it, this guy should live alone) – there’s Darcy’s buddy (and social opposite) Mr. Bingley, a sociable being, who serves (by the playwright’s own description) as “almost literally a dog” for Darcy.

Played by Kevin Hafso-Koppman, Bingley seems at least a reasonable approximation of a man. But Hafso-Koppman is mostly notable as the more serious middle daughter Mary, a reader who also plays the piano. She also coughs. A lot. That limits her marriage prospects a bit. It’s easy to make fun of her (especially in costume designer Shirley Pierson’s get-up), and Hafso-Koppman has a good time here.

But back to the suitors. There’s Mr. Collins, a pedantic and pompous rector, the type no woman would look at were he not the presumptive heir to Longbourn. Jake Millgard (in great form) plays both Collins and the handsome and charming Mr. Wickham (a military officer and a bounder) with great élan.

Joy Yvonne Jones gives a lovely performance as eldest daughter Jane, who is interested in Mr. Bingley, and plays a few minor roles as well.

Adrian Alita brings a sense of detachment to Mr. Bennet, worn out by the family chaos and definitely second-rung in the power structure. He also plays Lizzy’s friend Charlotte Lucas, perhaps more sensible than most in her decision to marry for money.

Michelle Marie Trester plays Lydia, the frivolous youngest Bennet daughter, who flaunts social norms by going off with Wickham. She also plays another extreme, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy’s overbearing aunt.

The serious themes of who has the power and what is love, anyway get pretty short shrift here, with all the craziness going on. But most of the audience the night I saw it seemed content to settle for giggling at the lunacy.

Sean Fanning’s set plays up the central point here, which is getting Lizzie and Darcy together. Shirley Pierson’s costumes are fun and often funny. Lighting and sound are well handled by Chris Rynne and Melanie Chen Cole, respectively.

Michael Mizerany has choreographed the period dancing nicely.

This “Pride and Prejudice” has its charms, but I came away from it with one distinctly modern (not to mention crude) question: WTF?

The details

“Pride and Prejudice” plays through June 16, 2019 at Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St. in Old Town.

Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm

Tickets: (619) 337-1525 or www.cygnettheatre.com