It is a truth universally acknowledged that any audience member in possession of a show ticket must be in want of a good show. However little known the feelings or views of such an audience member may be on his or her first entering a theatre, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the relevant actors that any attendee is considered as the rightful "property" of some one or other of hours of entertainment.
"My dear reader," said a BroadwayWorld reviewer to you this day, "have you heard that the Butterfield 8 production of 'Pride and Prejudice' has returned at last?
"But the clever adaptation of Jane Austen's classic romance has returned!" the reviewer continued. "Do you not want to know more?"
That was invitation enough.
"Why, my reader, you must know, the Concord based theatre company has created a wonderful living room atmosphere that simultaneously has the feeling of the perfect bedtime story and of a high-quality theatrical experience."
In Butterfield 8's intimate production, the characters come to life and tell their stories through both their own words and the words of Jane Austen's narration. Adding their characters' personalities to the author's narration, the actors tell and act out the story of Elizabeth Bennet, her less than proper family, and their interactions with the proud Mr. Darcy and friendly Mr. Bingley. Donald L. Hardy, who adapted the book into two parts (for two separate performances) for the Butterfield stage flawlessly balances Austen's witty narrative with active character conversations.
The format of the script and the setup of the stage make for an entirely unique experience of a well-known and often interpreted story. The seating arrangement leaves a large open space between seats on which much of the period dancing and action to take place. Certain seats have tables set for tea (for a small additional price), as well, making it all the easier for audiences to get drawn into the long-passed time of "Pride and Prejudice."
Consistently strong acting from a mostly local cast captivates audiences as endearing characters come alive and enchant viewers both new to and familiar with the play's famed source. Although Edwin Peabody does not entirely look the part and lacks the mystery of Mr. Darcy, Peabody is clearly a talented actor, and he does a satisfying job conveying the pride and status of the character. Becky Potter plays opposite Peabody as a spirited Elizabeth Bennet. Potter flies over her lines with ease, producing a very memorable Lizzie from start to finish. Her sister, Annie Potter, brings equal talent to the table as the flirtatious Lydia Bennet and as the sweet and composed Georgianna Darcy - several of the actors play more than one character.
Maureen-Theresa Williams makes a wonderful Mrs. Bennet, a silly, fickle character obsessed with marrying her daughters off to whoever comes along. Williams plays well off of an equally humorous Alan Cameron as Mr. Bennet. Kathryn "CC" Sheldon makes a lovely Jane Bennet opposite a handsome and lively Alexander Murphy as Charles Bingley. Jessamy Collier and Julia McArthur deserve great credit for their impressions of Bingley's stuck-up sisters. McArthur doubles as Lizzie's warm and loveable best friend, Charlotte Lucas.
The rest of the Bennets are as amiable as our leading actors. Rhianna Taylor stars as Kitty Bennet, while Ali Arman uses particularly memorable facial expressions to convey the girlish shyness of the young, intellectual Mary Bennet. David Hardie plays the Bennets' stiff and absurd cousin Mr. Collins and Melynda Kiring and Gary Mutz have a warmth and joy about them as Mrs. Gardiner and Sir William Lucas. Peter Jonathan McArthur also does a wonderful job as the handsome and deceptively charming George Wickham.
Jane Austen's words need no retelling for betterment, but Butterfield 8 Theatre Company has done a brilliant job of using the text, itself, to enhance the reader's experience of "Pride and Prejudice." With great costumes from Liz Martin and Pink Depford Design Studio, lovely hair and wigs by Linda Wenzelberger, and solid direction from John Butterfield, Jane Austen fans and fans of theatre in general will not want to miss Butterfield 8's production of "Pride and Prejudice."