By Larry Laneer
September 19, 2021
Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park has brought back “in the Park” after a brief flirtation with just Oklahoma Shakespeare. So, we have the alliterative Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park is putting on Pride and Prejudice on the Paseo. Other than that not much more can be said about the show.
Erin Woods adapted the popular Jane Austen novel for the stage. Alissa Mortimer directs this production at OSP’s new and still-developing outdoor venue. Woods’s script sticks to the novel in spirit and storyline. Several epistolary monologues keep the action going. Mortimer’s staging moves efficiently through many scene changes, using only lighting (by Rebekah Garrett) and a few props. Thus, Woods’s script and Mortimer’s direction come off as, well, Shakespearean.
With young actors cast in certain roles, the play looks and sounds like a college production. It feels every bit of its two-and-a-half hour running time. The few dances, which are done to recorded music, could be cut and not be missed.
In the novel and play, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett face the complications of marrying off five daughters with little to offer as dowries. A legal entailment encumbers Bennett’s substantial, if not lavish, estate, so it can be inherited only by a male heir. Marriage is as much a business transaction as it is a romance in this story.
As the Bennetts, Michael Page and Elizabeth Ann Townsend give the production some maturity and gravitas it would lack without them. Townsend’s Mrs. Bennet flips back and forth between exasperation and delight. Bianca Bulgarelli shows emotional range as Elizabeth Bennett, and Kirby Dixon Crosbie is fine as Jane Bennett. Kamron McClure plays Mr. Darcy with studied aloofness. Matthew Alvin Brown tries to add a little levity with some extraneous mugging. When Mr. Bingley (Nick Hone) proposed on bended knee to Jane and she accepted, it drew audience applause. That’s the production’s high point.
OSP is still experimenting with its new outdoor space. For this production, they placed shotgun microphones in front of the stage. The amplification gives the voices a subtle foundation without drowning out the actors. In two shows done here this summer, the acoustics have been surprisingly good, considering the stage has no roof.
At least, the production looks sharp, up to the standards we expect from OSP. The action takes place before a floral and greenery background by Catherine Pitt. Lloyd Cracknell’s early-19th-century costumes are in muted, pleasing colors with nice detail.
Casting college students and recent graduates as the Bennett daughters and their suitors fits the story. This production would be stronger and more enjoyable to watch with age-appropriate actors in all roles.
|Pride and Prejudice, based on the novel by Jane Austen, adapted for the stage
by Erin Woods
Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park
8:00 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays, through October 3