Take one overbearing mother, add a cup of devilishly handsome men, two teaspoons of pretty-and witty-girls, and put in just a pinch of romance, deception, and unceasing humor and charm: sounds like the perfect recipe for a dramatic soap opera. But this is no daytime television show: this is Jane Austen! Herndon High School took Austen’s classic novel and placed it up on the stage in their performance of "Pride and Prejudice."
The story centers on the home of the Bennet family, where Mrs. Bennet, mother of five daughters, is anxious to marry off her girls to a very wealthy husband. Her eldest daughter Jane, who is sweet and pretty, and Elizabeth, who is strong-willed and quick tempered, face the brunt of their mother’s strong hints of marriage. So when handsome Mr. Bingley, brooding Mr. Darcy, dashing Mr. Wickham, and even old, strange Mr. Collins enter the picture, it seems that all of Mrs. Bennet’s dreams will shortly come true. But the Bennett household is not prepared for the jealousy, deceit and scandal that comes with romance between social classes, and it soon becomes clear that as long as pride and prejudice stand in the way, true love, wealth, and happiness will stay out of reach.
Sanam Hashemi’s portrayal of the demure Jane Bennet was a standout among the members of the cast. Her strong character motivations, sweet expressions, and consistent acting made her charming, loving character one of the most realistic and likable characters in the show. As well, Cate Graney’s Lydia Bennet, the youngest and most flirtatious of all the Bennets, was amusing at every moment without fail, portraying Lydia’s youth and innocence with an apparent ease.
The comedic side of the show was strongly presented by many of the actors in the show. Both Tessa Kelly’s Mrs. Bennet and Chris Hrozencik’s Mr. Collins were obvious crowd favorites, receiving laughs from the audience quite frequently. Their attention to physicality and strong stage presence gave the two actors good comedic timing, making originally funny roles even more amusing.
Herndon’s set designers Justin Burns and Cate Graney brought the world of Longbourn, the Bennet estate, to life. With attention to small details such as intricately painted roses and lovely silhouettes of the Bennet girls inside the home, the set was a pleasure to view. The costume designers Hannah Coyne, Emma Miller-Cvilikas, and Morgan Raouti did an excellent job on many of the women’s costumes, and their dress designs were well executed and helped the actors to bring the audience into the world of 19th century England. Nicholas Black’s original music helped to bring realism to the world of Pride and Prejudice as well. Played by a small, costumed string quartet consisting of Nicholas Black, Katie Hinders, Shelby Keegan, and Matt Banks, the music was not only beautifully written and performed, but helped to add a very realistic touch the show with period style music.
Jane Austen’s story of "Pride and Prejudice," beloved by fans since its writing, has found a new medium to tell the tale of Lizzie, Jane, and happily ever after, this time on the stage. Herndon High School’s production of Pride and Prejudice brought the timeless story to the audiences of this modern generation, so that the classic romance could be seen in a whole new way. Their glimpse into the world of the Bennets was enjoyable, heartfelt, and amusing, doing justice to the words and wit of the great Jane Austen.