Kate Hamill’s “Pride and Prejudice” at Seattle Rep

Don’t come to this performance expecting a traditional outing with Jane Austen and her charming cast of characters. Oh, all the main players are there, but they are inserted into Kate Hamill’s madcap, zany, and farcical adaptation of this highly revered Austen favorite. If you are a traditionalist, this probably won’t be for you. If you love clowns, circuses, farce, and ridiculous situations this is a variation of Ms. Austen’s work like none you have ever seen before.

Ms. Hamill is a highly regarded playwright who has been lauded for her whacky adaptations of the classics: “Vanity Fair” (Thackeray), “The Seagull” (Chekov), “Sense and Sensibility” (Austen), among others. “Pride and Prejudice is the latest of her inventions to be staged, and Seattle Rep’s production is it’s second outing.

Emily Chisholm (Jane), Kjerstine Anderson (Lizzy), Hana Lass (Lydia), Rajeev Varma (Mr. Bennet), and Cheyenne Casebier (Mrs. Bennet) in Seattle Repertory Theatre’s production of Pride and Prejudice. Photo by Alan Alabastro.

Upon entering the theatre, you’ll suspect that something different is going on here. The stage is fully revealed. No curtains or backdrop create an illusion. Instead, Scenic Designer John McDermott has filled the cavernous space with the oddest assortment of “things”. There’s a ship’s bell, an old Victrola, costumes hanging all over the place, a massive pianoforte from another era, a row of mirrors of the sort used by actors to apply makeup. If you wonder why they and all the other things are there, keep wondering. There’s little to explain their significance and there’s little need for that as the play progresses.

From the opening moments, chaos reigns. Actors run about, emotions are oversized, lots of noise, cross dressing, etc. The only thing you won’t find is subtlety. Director Amanda Dehnert has made sure of all of that.

If you like the Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers with a bit of Monte Python thrown in, you’ll find plenty to like here. There’s lots of action; there appears to be little coordination. But that’s not a flaw. It’s a carefully contrived mechanism to reinforce the humor. So too is the outsized emotion. This is broad humor…very broad. If insanity on stage is not your thing, skip this. Otherwise, enjoy the romp.

Through October 29 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle, 206 443-2222 or SEATTLEREP.ORG.

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