By Rae Hunt
In the retelling of Jane Austen’s classic tale, Pride and Prejudice, we follow Elizabeth Bennet (Maryn Tueller) and her sisters Jane (Jasmine Hohl), Mary (Mary Hohl), Catherine (Olivia Hohl), and Lydia (Mia Bagley) as they emerge into society and experience the realm of courtship in the Regency Era. As there are no male heirs for the Bennets, so the family is destined to be kicked out of the property when Mr. Bennet (Michael Hohl) passes on. This is a world where making a clever match is the only hope of happiness for a young woman in this situation, but Elizabeth (Lizzie to her sisters) is determined to marry for love or not at all.
Our story starts when the Bennets are invited to a ball where a new and wealthy and unattached Charles Bingley (Tom Hohl will also attend. Mrs. Bennet (Eden Benson) is adamant that this is the opportunity for one of her girls to marry into society and save the rest of the family from potential destitution. Bingley is accompanied to the ball by his sister Caroline (Megan Heaps) and his best friend Fitzwilliam Darcy (Spencer Hohl). Darcy makes an immediate impression on Elizabeth as rude and unlikable when he only dances with those he already knows. On the other hand, Bingley is absolutely smitten with Elizabeth’s older sister Jane. However, Darcy doesn’t approve of this match and uses his prejudice to convince his friend to leave Bingley’s estate Longbourne without proposing to the beautiful Jane. In the mix we add the odd, boring, and pedantic Mr. Collins (Tyler Hanson) who is looking to pick a wife from the five sisters so as to not put them out of their home when he inherits it. However, while he expresses interest in Elizabeth, she will not have him. She’s instead interested in a militia officer named George Wickham (Ren Cottam) who has told her that he has been wronged in the past by Darcy which furthers Elizabeth’s own prejudice against the aloof man. Eventually, Darcy confesses that he has feelings for her but she rejects him and confronts him on his unfairness toward the obvious upcoming match between Jane and Bingley’s relationship. Elizabeth also distrusts Darcy his apparent wrongfulness toward Wickham. Darcy acknowledges his fault judging unjustly as he felt Jane was indifferent and uninterested to his friend. He also clarifies the situation with Wickham where he is able to reveal the past between Wickham and his sister. Will Elizabeth believe his side of the story or will she allow her own pride to keep her from forgiving him?
Tueller is fantastic as the headstrong and free-thinking Elizabeth. As our main character, Tueller has a large quantity of lines and does an amazing job delivering them clearly and with great emotion. I liked the chemistry she has with Darcy. They are able to bounce witty comebacks off each other effortlessly. S. Hohl, for his part, does brilliantly in his role as the taciturn Darcy. He embraces Darcy’s awkward social graces, making them endearing. He is effective in conveying Darcy’s inner conflict between his attraction to Elizabeth and his disdain for her family’s objectionable public behaviors.
Charles Bingley is always portrayed as the likable, energetic and earnest young man, a wonderful foil to taciturn Darcy. He wears his feelings on his sleeve. T. Hohl pins this characterization perfectly. His overwhelming bouncy and open personality makes Bingley very agreeable indeed. He just lights up the stage every time he’s on it. J. Hohl as Jane Bennet is very complementary to Bingley. I found that her poise is perfect for Jane and she is quite lovely. I enjoyed the chemistry she has with Tueller and they are very believable as sisters.
I found M. Hohl and Benson as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet to be quite enjoyable. M. Hohl comes across as a semi-eccentric gentleman of declining years who enjoys riling up his wife while Benson plays the part of meddling wife very aptly. You can see how much she wants to see her daughters married off to any suitor who comes knocking, even those who may or may not be appropriate. She’s quite often found to be discussing loudly the potential matches for her marriageable daughters. While she does a great job of displaying Mrs. Bennet’s evident (and often obnoxiously displayed) goals for her five daughters, she also convinces the audience of her sincere love for them as well.
Additionally in the Bennet family we have Mary, Catherine (Kitty) and Lydia. M. Hohl, O. Hohl and Bagley play the parts of the three younger Bennet children. M Hohl does a fantastic job as the bookish and socially awkward Mary. . She tries so hard to fit in and is often cut off as she’s providing her opinion during conversations. O. Hohl and Bagley, on the other hand, come across as frivolous and vain. Their characterizations are so accurate, it’s like they stepped right out of the book Bagley effectively brings to life Lydia’s obsession with marrying a militia officer, no matter how socially unacceptable it is.
Ren Cottam as the dastardly George Wickham is smooth and handsome. His take on Wickham makes it easy to see how Elizabeth would believe his lies. However, to my surprise and delight, this is the only version of Pride and Prejudice where I almost actually like Wickham.
I also enjoyed the fantastic performances of the other cast members including Heidi Mendez as imposing Lady Catherine De Bourgh, Hanson as the socially awkward Mr. Collins, Madeline Thatcher as Elizabeth’s best friend Charlotte Lucas, David Glaittli and Hillary McChesney as the delightful Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Allison Jensen as Darcy’s housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds and Oran Marc deBaritault as Mr. Denny. While these roles were smaller, I feel that each of them presented a quality performance and convincingly complete the cast.
Director Jennifer Hohl provides the Parker Theatre’s Pride and Prejudice the delicacy, humor, and precise adherence to the novel. Dazzling period costumes designed by Lauri Baird and Makeup and Wigs designed by Shannara Jones effortlessly plunge us into the Regency Era. James Parker’s set and lighting design certainly create a delightful Regency feel. With Sound Design by Spencer Hohl and assistance from Dialect Coach Brett Myers, this crew has done an outstanding job of making us feel as if we too are in the romantic regency Era ourselves. This is definitely a performance you will not want to miss.
Parker Theatre presents Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice.
Parker Theatre, 3605 S State St, Salt Lake City, UT 84115
Feb 3 – Mar 9, 2024, Showtimes vary, see site for individual performance details.
Tickets: $27 Adults, $18 Children