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Diablo Review: Pride and Prejudice

Livermore Shakespeare Festival delights with Jane Austen’s classic.



Lindsey Marie Schmeltzer, Thomas Gorrebeeck, and Elissa Beth Stebbins in Pride and Prejudice

Photo by Gregg Le Blanc, CumulusLight.com

 

The woman seated directly behind me at Livermore Shakespeare Festival’s production of Pride and Prejudice kept loudly repeating humorous pieces of dialog before bursting into laughter. It was a bit annoying, sure, but I was also delighted by the glee this apparent first-timer was experiencing.


I’ve read the classic Jane Austen love story several times—and even own an annotated version with trivia and historical tid-bits—not to mention watched both the BBC miniseries and the 2005 movie adaptation more times than I care to admit. (Side note: Other P&P fans should definitely check out the small 2013 film Austenland. Very funny.)


But Pride and Prejudice as a play was a first for me! Adapted by Christina Calvit, of Chicago’s Lifeline Theatre, and directed by Virginia Reed, the story is moved speedily along through pieces of narration, with protagonist Elizabeth Bennet (lively portrayed by a perfectly cast Elissa Beth Stebbins) addressing the audience directly—at one point even retreating from the stage to join us. The production, staged in front of Concannon Vineyard’s stunning 1883 estate home (and at times using its balcony), gracefully transforms from ballrooms to drawing rooms to gardens with only subtle costume changes and minimal props.


A highlight of the small cast is Gwen Loeb, a Livermore Shakes first-timer, who brightens the stage and earns much laughter for her portrayal of the overly dramatic Mrs. Bennet, who desperately wants her daughters to wed rich men. Also entertaining is Lucas Hatton as Mr. Collins, a socially awkward clergyman in search of a wife. Mr. Darcy, played by Thomas Gorrebeeck, doesn’t disappoint in his air of superiority at the Hertfordshire social events, and his increasingly smouldering glances toward Elizabeth Bennet.


Add in pre-show picnicking and wine tasting; coffee, hot coco, and cookies at intermisson; and blanket rentals (the temperature drops quickly with the sunset), it’s a delightful evening. If Livermore Shakespeare Festival isn’t on your list of local summer to-dos, it should be.


 Pride and Prejudice runs through July 20. For tickets and information, visit livermoreshakes.org.