Austen favorite infused with 20th century Americana

Austen-ites, rejoice: VegSOUP and Cothurnus will bring Mary Keith Medbery Mackaye’s stage adaption of Jane Austen’s timeless novel Pride and Prejudice to life for a three-show run in Sturges Auditorium.

Director senior Jennie Conway put her own spin on the classic work, giving the British novel of manners a 1950s update. “It was hard because it’s no longer in England in the Regency era,” Conway said. “I had to make a lot of changes to the script. It was a little challenging, to set it in America, to get all the times and places right. I know it was challenging for the actors as well to get the language to not sound British.”

While purists might object to the change in setting, this update gives a new edge to the oft-adapted work. Conway herself is a professed lover of Austen’s literature. “Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books of all time,” Conway said. “It’s just a really great story, very relatable and very timeless.”

That timeless quality is part of the reason this adaptation works so well. Conway’s changes have maintained the content while adding a retro American flair. Conway noted that her desire to explore overlaps in gender roles between the two generations influenced her update. “I thought that there were similar themes to both eras,” she said. Conway made note of the similarities in “what [women] had to deal with and had to do.”

Senior Hannah Rody-Wright’s lighthearted portrayal of family matriarch Mrs. Bennet made special use of the setting change. Rody-Wright lent the overzealous role the necessary flair. Meanwhile, junior Tyler Thier delivered a memorable performance in a supporting role as the staid Mr. Bennet. Sweater-clad and unflappable, Thier was the embodiment of the detached and distant American patriarch.

In the two leading roles, senior Brodie Guinan and junior Paige Gordon give strong performances as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, respectively. Gordon captured Elizabeth’s endearingly headstrong spirit, while Guinan, reserved and class-conscious, was the quintessential Darcy.

The show as a whole is remarkable for its dedication to a fresh and light performance. Junior Jeremy Jackson as the fawning clergyman Mr. Collins perfectly embodied the light feeling that ran throughout the play. Though successful in moments of tension, the play was most enjoyable for its humorous breaks.

VegSOUP and Cothurnus managed to add their own flair to a canonical novel in this rendition without sacrificing the traits that made it so lovable in the first place. “I hope that our take is new and that people are surprised by it and that they enjoy it,” Conway said.

“Pride and Prejudice” opens Friday Feb. 6 in Sturges Auditorium at 7:30 p.m., with additional shows Feb. 7-8 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.


Correction: In the Feb. 5 issue of The Lamron, “Austen favorite infused with 20th century Americana” stated that the role of  Elizabeth Bennet was played by senior Alyssa Conte in “Pride and Prejudice.” The role was actually played by junior Paige Gordon.