By Joseph Szalinski
If British Literature is your cup of tea, then The Pittsburgh Savoyards have a treat for you at the Margaret Partee Performing Arts Center in Bellevue. For the fourth production in their 86th season, they’ve decided to bring a classic romance to the stage with their adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, adapted and directed by Marsha Mayhak.
The OG Bridget Jones’s Diary follows Mrs. Bennet’s (Apryl Peroney) quest to become an empty nester by marrying off her daughters to well-to-do gentlemen. While Jane (Mary-Cait Cox) and Charles Bingley (Calvin Brookins) hit it off splendidly, Elizabeth (Rebecca Radeshak) and Mr. Darcy (Alex Policicchio) experience a bit of turbulence at first before becoming smitten and then engaged.
Staging a story that’s famous in various mediums, particularly film and television, can be a bit tricky. With a novel, the interior lives of characters can be probed; there’s license to explore and plod. Similarly, miniseries can take the time to touch on a multitude of plot points and ideas. Theatre can’t afford those luxuries. Even with source material provided, the act of condensing the text and converting it into a script can be as challenging as writing a play from scratch. While the runtime could be shorter for pacing’s sake, Mayhak addresses all of the crucial moments in the narrative, occasionally being bogged down by excessively wordy dialogue.
Tasked with delivering these academic rhapsodies, with English accents, is a talented cast whose members swap in and out depending on the date of the performance. Despite the reluctant romance between Lizzie and Darcy being the focus of the show, the chemistry between Jane and Lizzie in the scenes they share together is the most palpable. In addition to the more emotional elements, there is also a great deal of comedy in the form(s) of Mr. Bingley, William Collins, and Mrs. Bennet, who all elicit chuckles verbally and physically. The dance is perhaps the scene that stands out the most. Not only is it well choreographed and executed, but the physicality is a great mirror of the battle of wits occurring concurrently.
Aside from performances, this production delights from a technical standpoint as well. The set is expertly designed, taking advantage of the space provided, with a few instances where the performers get particularly close to the audience, making the whole thing seem a bit immersive. Costumes are amazing. They evoke the sense and sensibility of those who don them, existing as set pieces and characters themselves.
Bellevue is another spot close to the city that’s experiencing a revival in art and cuisine. Its residents, and interested thespians, are incredibly fortunate to have a seasoned theatre company and a dependable venue in town, especially one that so heartily encourages all members of the community to get involved in helping to create something meaningful.
Pride and Prejudice continues its run at the Margaret Performing Arts Center in Bellevue, PA February 16th, 17th, 23rd, and 24th at 7:30 PM and a matinee performance at 2:30 PM on Sunday, February 18th. For more information, click here.