With performances at Mandarin Presbyterian Church before moving to Atlantic Blvd., the Northeast Florida Conservatory presents the classic Pride and Prejudice, running through July 21. Based on the novel by Jane Austen, it is set in the early 1800’s England and is a romantic sparring match touching on manners and morals. It is time when women were expected to marry, because bloodlines – and money – passed only from father to son.
An ever-harried Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet, whose life revolves around marrying off her daughters, are hilariously portrayed by Geoff DuChemin and Izzy Hague. The daughters number five: Jane (Madeline Crawchuk), who is heartbroken in love, Elizabeth (Amanda Hartwell), the proud and stubborn sister, Mary (Louise Everett), a bookworm, Catherine (Emily Turner), a sensitive young lady, and Lydia (Audrey Everett), a carefree spirit who runs off with her suitor. All of these characters are nicely handled with discreet personalities by each of the young ladies. The last of the Bennet household, announcing the comings-and-goings is an efficient Hill (Evan Billings).
With no male heir, Mr. Bennet’s family will be destitute should he die, unless one of the girls marries well before then. Enter the suitors. Mr. Bingly (George Doran) owns nearby property and brings his sister, well in the manner played by Alyssa Billings. Bingly also brings his friend, Mr. Darcy, an elegant portrayal of wealth and pride by Will Cook. Mr. Wickham, a regiment officer (Andrew Keck), beguiles the family and lures the youngest Bennet away from home while misleading Elizabeth about Darcy’s personality. The last of the suitors is Mr. Collins (Josh Katzman), a cousin of Mr. Bennet’s and heir to the Bennet estate.
Rounding out the cast: Lady Lucas (Marilyn Painter) reveals Wickham’s true nature, allowing Elizabeth to break through her prejudice. Charlotte Lucas (Kirsten Wellborn), Elizabeth’s friend, winds up engaged to Collins. A regal Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Darlene Noel), Darcy’s aunt, calls on the family to tell Elizabeth that Darcy is above her station.
As the performance is on a small church pulpit in lieu of a traditional theater stage, Director Patty Everett had very little space in which to work. The set was lovely, effectively using screens to cover egresses. Everyone was laughing from the wit and nuances displayed between actors throughout the play.
NE Florida Conservatory is currently located at 11363 San Jose Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32223, but will be moving to 10131 Atlantic Blvd. For reservations or information, you can call (904) 374-8639 or go to www.showtixnow.com. The Conservatory offers ongoing music and dance classes.