Two actresses put on larger-than-life performances in an unconventional play rendition of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice.
The production is a two-woman show — hosted at the Frontenac Club Inn — starring Hallie Burt and Kate Werneberg, playing all of Jane Austen’s classic characters, from Elizabeth Bennett to Mr. Collins.
Burt and Werneberg met at Ryerson Theatre School in 2005 and are typically Toronto-based producers and actresses. Since Jan. 29th, their show is being presented by Theatre Kingston.
The duo co-created the play — formally titled “Elizabeth-Darcy: An Adaptation of Pride and Prejudice — in Sept. 2012.
The play was a wonderful and true account of Austen’s, as they used a lot of the original novel’s dialogue.
As if switching characters for every scene wasn’t challenging enough, the show is also run in a site-specific style. The actresses perform each scene of the play in a different room of the Inn and audiences are ushered into the varying rooms by the show’s stage manager, Steve Vargo, to watch.
The actresses’ energy in each of their scenes engaged the audience and made viewers eager to follow them around Kingston’s historical house.
“It’s pretty rare in theatre that a show has so many lives and we’re in our fifth,” Werneberg said. “We have certainly fought for that hard, but we’ve had tons of support along the way, so we feel really blessed and lucky.”
Burt and Werneberg made it seem easy to play so many characters, as they smoothly transitioned between roles.
Burt took on the role of Elizabeth Bennett and Werneberg played Mr. Darcy. From there, they divided up the rest of the characters based on necessity in the scenes.
“We have both played male characters in the past and really enjoyed it. We also had an interest in playing multiple characters,” Burt said.
Full costume changes weren’t necessary for the actresses to distinguish the character they were playing to the audience.
Through distinct voices and physical movements, the duo moved seamlessly from one character to the next with full understanding from the audience.
It was also helpful that their play stayed true to the novel’s dialogue.
“Jane Austen actually writes a lot of her novels in dialogue,” Burt said. “It’s nice for us because we were able to draw a lot of it straight from the novel, and it was a matter of cutting and keeping the essentials of the story.” Their impressive adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is the result of dedication, hard work and massive amounts of inspiration.
“Something I learned while doing this is that if you really want to, nothing can stop you,” Burt said. “When we were developing this play we had no money and no time, but we knew we wanted to do it.
“You can accomplish a lot if you really, really want to do it and enjoy it.”
The show will be playing at the Frontenac Club Inn until Feb. 16.
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