Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

Pride and Prejudice
Cygnet Theatre
Review by David Dixon | Season Schedule

Also see David's review of Yoga Play

Joy Yvonne Jones, Kevin Hafso-Koppman,
Shana Wride, Adrian Alita, and Jacque Wilke

Photo by Karli Cadel Photography
Presenting a new version of a classic story can be a delicate balancing act. Writers and directors feel the need to make the tale fresh for a modern audience while still retaining the original elements, writing and plot that made the tale successful in the first place. Cygnet Theatre's production of Kate Hamill's theatrical adaptation of Pride and Prejudice attempts to find the sweet spot between honoring Jane Austen's story and bringing something new to the table. Hamill's script, along with the efforts and collaboration of Associate Artistic Director Rob Lufty, keeps the story from turning into a dry interpretation of the original. The presentation of the plot has several modern touches, including the introduction of songs such as The Pointer Sisters' "Jump (For My Love)" and Madonna's "Material Girl," and Melanie Chen Cole's audio contributes to an upbeat atmosphere. Contemporary props, such as copies of The San Diego Union-Tribune and a disco ball, are incorporated in the staging, and references to flawed and taboo relationships are handled with subversive humor. That being said, the story does stay reasonably true to Austen's original.

In the 1800s, Elizabeth Bennett, or Lizzy (played by Jacque Wilke), and her sisters Jane (Joy Yvonne Jones) and Lydia (Michelle Marie Trester) are expected to marry at a somewhat early age. This pressure mostly comes from societal expectations of the day and their dominating mother Mrs. Bennett (Shana Wride). When Lizzy first meets Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Steven Lone) at a dance, she is put off by his reserved and distant attitude. Their lives, however, continue to intersect as Mr. Darcy's friend Charles Bingley (Kevin Hafso-Koppman) falls for Jane and, the more that Lizzy crosses paths with Mr. Darcy, the more fascinated (and irritated) she becomes with him. Mrs. Bennett, on the other hand, tries to convince Lizzy to marry her cousin William Collins (Jake Millgard).

Hamill incorporates a good amount of Austen's writing into the play, while introducing her own style of humor as well. She smartly shows the oddity of some of the relationships by showcasing, for instance, the distance between Mr. and Mrs. Bennett (the former played by Adrian Alita) and William's longing for his cousin. Some of the humor, such as a cheerleading chant and raunchy dialogue, are unnecessarily repeated, but the majority of her jokes are quite funny. Hamill also takes time to depict the growing relationship between Lizzy and Mr. Darcy, and it's enjoyable to see how their feelings toward each other change throughout the narrative. There's also Austen's theme, and one honored by Hamill, that true love and marriage are not incompatible with strong women.

Lutfy presents all of Hamill's creative choices equally well with his unique direction, and he directs the show in an energetic style. Through the use of Rachel Hengst's props and Sean Fanning's set, he's able to present an unconventional dramatization of the Regency Era in England. Modern songs used by Cole, the party-style choreography by Michael Mizerany, and lighting by Chris Rynne all add to this unique rendition. In addition, the costumes by Shirley Pierson result in some entertaining transitions for the performers onstage.

Most of the actors, besides Wilke and Lone, play more than one character. The two stars act with amusingly contrasting personalities, and they show a lot of respect for Austen's characters. Jones, Trester, Wride, Alita and Millgard are all enjoyable to watch in their various roles. However, it's Hafso-Koppman who gets many of the biggest laughs. He is always funny whenever he appears onstage, particularly when he's the hapless black sheep of the family, Mary.

With more offbeat humor than you might expect, there's plenty here to appeal to romantics and those who just want to watch a hilarious night of theatre. The charming cast and out-of-the-box writing and direction by Hamill and Lutfy are easily worth recommending.

Pride and Prejudice, through June 16, 2019, Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St, San Diego CA. Performances are Sundays through Saturdays. Tickets start at $25.00 and can be purchased online at or by phone at 619-337-1525.