Playwright Daniel Elihu Kramer and director Eleni Papaleonardos do the damn near impossible with Available Light’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, they take it apart, put the pieces back together leaving some gaps so you lose your familiar footing only to find it again, while referencing the acclaimed movie adaptations and pointing out their slightly different takes which also sheds light on the play’s different take. And in doing all of this, they fit in everything the audience loves about the book and they do it in less than two hours.
The performances are terrific, especially Michelle Schroeder [ed., incorrectly said Joanna at first, mea culpa] (so heartbreaking in God’s Ear and so hilarious here) as Jane, Lydia, Jane Austen and Darcy’s aunt, Acacia Duncan as Elizabeth, and Wolf Sherrill as Darcy and Mr. Collins and the entire cast as modern bloggers and students hashing out the questions behind the story.
One of the feats of structure this pulls off effortlessly is shifting from the action (including actors speaking description such as “Darcy did not speak”) to modern book club/blog/study group questions to Jane Austen’s own letters all through a trick of lighting – naturalistic (at least for whatever that means for the stage) in the narrative sections, harsh talk-show light for the modern and a soft spotlight on Schroder for the Austen letters.
A had a concern that the second half dragged a little bit but honestly I felt that way about the book too, and once all the tools are set up in the first, the second flows naturally and doesn’t need to keep shocking you with another reference or another crack in the fourth wall. The kind of play that’s wholly satisfying on every single level.
Playing in the Riffe Center until January 24. http://bit.ly/4I9gHe