Pride & Prejudice On Stage at 2nd Space

Jun 29, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Terrance Mc Arthur

This is not your Grandmother’s Pride & Prejudice!

Imagine Monty Python & the Marx Brothers meet Jane Austen, and you will be close to the amazing chaos on the Good Company Players’ 2nd Space Theatre stage as Pride & Prejudice plays through August 6.

Cast of GCP’s production of “Pride and Prejudice”

Many people have rosy memories of P&P, with Laurence Olivier, Colin Firth, Keira Knightly, Greer Garson, and romance swirled together in soft focus, while Austen actually created a satiric look at British society and the inequities of its class system—which confined women to a chattel state that made them mere property—and misconceptions of love. Kate Hamill’s subversive retelling of the story makes the cultural absurdities stand out by making them . . . absurd. Eight performers fill more than fifteen parts, changing costumes and genders at warp speed. Hamill also adapted Austen for the script for GCP’s 2018 Sense and Sensibility production.

Cast of GCP’s production of “Pride and Prejudice”

Somewhere between 1800 and 1813 in England, The not-rich Mr. Bennet (Ken Stocks) and Mrs. Bennet (Renee Newlove) have four unmarried daughters (The book has five, but one was lost in adaptation.)—Jane (Kelsey Deroian), Lizzy (Sofia McCurry), Mary (Casey Ballard), and Lydia (Emily Kearns), but the inheritance laws don’t factor in women, so the next in line for the manor is a second cousin, Mr. Collins (Marc Gonzalez), an odious clergyman. The new neighbor, Mr. Bingley (Ballard) has a sister, Miss Bingley (Gonzalez), and a visiting friend, Darcy (Jared Serpa). Darcy doesn’t like Lt. Wickham (Gonzalez), who is stationed in the area. Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Kearns) wants him to marry Miss De Bourgh (Deroian). Lizzy finds Darcy PRIDEful, which makes her PREJUDICEd against him, a fact she confides to her friend Charlotte (Stocks). There are also various servants and butlers (Newlove) serving and butling.

McCurry gives Lizzy a “sense and sensibility” the other sisters lack. Although other characters describe Lizzy as plain, McCurry is not. She accents the wit of her dialogue, and her changing perception of Darcy feels strongly human. Serpa is intense as Darcy fights his feelings for Lizzy, turning from interest, to admiration, to frustration, to love. The interaction of the two gives a grounding to the second act when insanity reigns around them.

Cast of GCP’s production of “Pride and Prejudice”

Stocks is sardonic as Mr. Bennet, fond of Lizzy, mystified by his other daughters, and patiently resigned to his wife. As Charlotte, she is chatty and pragmatic, resigned to the fact that—in 19th century British society—having money is a better deal than having love. As Mrs. Bennet, Newlove is raucous and silly, obsessed with finding wealthy husbands for her daughters. She’s over the top, and that’s the way other characters react to her. As the maids and butlers, she scurries and shuffles as needed.

Ballard turns Bingley into a big puppy dog, eager to please, all but begging for belly rubs and scratches, chasing a dog-toy ball. As Mary, she lurches around the stage, uttering sudden sounds that startle others. The two characters are so different, it is a shock to see her making quick changes to switch roles. Deroian makes a playful Jane, the good, eldest daughter, gleefully playing fetch with Bingley. It’s not so much love between them as the devotion of pet and owner to each other. As the hooded Miss de Bourgh, she seems a predatory mummy in white, reaching out to claim Darcy.

Cast of GCP’s production of “Pride and Prejudice”

Kearns’s Lydia, the youngest daughter, is flighty, easily swayed by a shiny uniform. In the role of Lady Catherine, she turns icy, manipulative, and demanding, a 180-degree turnaround from the giggly girl. Gonzalez bears the weight of the rotten characters, and he performs admirably at being despicable. His Collins is obnoxious, setting his sights on Lizzy, and running past the scenery, shouting out the names of the flora of the gardens. Changing to Wickham, he is loathsome and charming, cozying up to Lizzy until he sets his sights on easier, under-age pickings. Then he becomes Miss Bingley, oozing evil, pawing at Darcy to get his attention.

J. Daniel Herring’s direction is irreverent, overturning expectations for a Masterpiece Theatre-like production. His program notes label it “Bold, surprising, boisterous, and timely,” and it is. Dance becomes a part of the story in an era where it was the only way unmarried couples were allowed to make physical contact. Ginger Kay Lewis Reed’s costumes veer toward the simple, with some surprises like Wickham’s ostentatious military uniform. David Pierce’s set is porcelain-white pieces hanging in front of black backgrounds, revealing actors changing and watching. Brandi Martin’s light design incorporates laser dots which help the performers hit their marks as they make scene changes.

This production takes an antique and repurposes it. Don’t be afraid to laugh.

The 2nd Space Theatre is at 928 E. Olive Ave, in Fresno. For tickets and further information, contact, or call (559) 266-9494.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. You can also find more theatre coming up on KRL’s Local Theatre event page.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur worked for the Fresno County Public Library for three decades. He is retired, but not retiring. A storyteller, puppeteer, writer, actor, magician, basketmaker, and all-around interesting person, his goal is to make life more unusual for everyone he meets.


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