Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice comes to life in the rooms of the historic Campbell House Museum
If there was one story that could satiate my teenage angst and desire from about the age of 15 to 19, it would be Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. On Thursday night I had the pleasure of heading down to the historic Campbell House Museum to see Kate Werneberg and Hallie Burt deliver an impressive performance of the characters of this deeply sensual story in their production Elizabeth-Darcy.
Two actors couldn’t have been given a better script. The screenplay adaptation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice does glorious justice to the book, with edits and tweaks that enhance the pace and the wit of all the memorable characters. As with the book, I eagerly sat through the entire A& E series and became engrossed in the interplay, jesting, and revelations of Elizabeth Bennet and William D’arcy — two intellectually well matched individuals from clashing social circles. Again, the sexual tension between these two characters was enough to satiate me through those raging hormones of my youth.
You see, people used to know how to speak to each other. Instead of just flipping someone the bird and saying “ Hey, you don’t KNOW me!”, people had to actually listen and calculate their responses for the social shame of blurting emotional reflexes. Yes, it actually made people more intelligent; forced to be wordsmiths and technicians when expressing themselves. This made for spectacular tension and stimulating conversation to which this script does homage.
I’m not going to lie. Part of me really just wanted to see a straight performance of Pride and Prejudice, just so I could drool over whatever male actor they cast as the pent up Mr. Darcy, and I could finally transfer my crush from Collin Firth to some other poor soul.
It wasn’t until I started developing a crush on Kate Werneburg, who portrays Darcy in this production, did I realizes that these two actors mean business. Werneburg and Burt’s production of Elizabeth-Darcy is just exhilarating. As a travelling audience we follow these two wiley actors through the musty and creaky rooms of The Campell House Museum. In their smart and edited version of this story, we see these two trade off every character present in each scene with such virtuosity.
I’d hesitate to call such young performers virtuosos but that is the word that came to mind when I watched both Burt and Werneburg transition so elegantly from one character to another, in some cases literally at the drop of a hat. These women inhabit all of the particular complexities of each character. Werneburg’s portrayal of Darcy has all the essential elements of the characters’ allure: he is shy, thoughtful but stubborn and particularly conflicted in social matters. Sorry Werneburg, watch out — you’ve got a bit of a super fan…
Burt’s portrayal of Elizabeth is very reminiscent of the A&E production, and to be fair, it could maybe be seen as not as much of a reach for her to play someone of the same gender. Burt continues to impress, however, with her portrayal of Mr. Bennet in particular; the quick witted and compassionate father of the Bennet brood.
Every scene in this production was captivating, and, as my date for the night mentioned, “We want so much to find a narrative in what we see.” The desire to piece together the events that grip us are what will keep you following these two actors through doors, and up the stairs and into dimly lit rooms to see the story unfold.
These actors are, in my opinion, virtuosos in the making, confidently playing each of these characters, and you would best get down to The Campbell House Museum to witness a classic revitalized.