Chemainus Theatre Festival’s ‘Pride & Prejudice’ delivers

True love triumphs at last: Lizzie melts into Darcy’s arms as the stage fades to darkness.

True love triumphs at last: Lizzie melts into Darcy’s arms as the stage fades to darkness.

In presenting Pride & Prejudice, the Chemainus Theatre Festival has adapted a beloved novel for the stage.

It’s sometimes a risky business, but Janet Munsil has done a superb job and the talented actors chosen for the well-known characters take up the challenge with gusto and charm.

The story has been skilfully shortened, removing material seamlessly while leaving certain much-loved parts of Jane Austen’s novel almost untouched.

Darcy’s arrogant but awkward proposal is still there, the Reverend Mr. Collins is as absurd as ever, Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s visit to Lizzie in the garden is as acerbic as could be hoped and Mr. Bennet’s bon mots are sprinkled throughout the production like bits of hot pepper atop a tasty pizza.

Everyone is good in this and director Julie McIsaac has found ways to showcase them all, while carefully managing those quick-change artists who play two parts.

Standouts include Yoshie Bancroft, whose Lizzie is lovely, loyal and infuriating by turns, and Amy Lee Newman, who is seen mainly as Mrs. Bennet and brings that histrionic woman to life with all the zest she deserves.

Matthew Hendrickson as Mr. Collins had theatregoers nearly holding their sides with his gaucheries and snobberies. You will love this portrayal.

Brett Harris manages to present Darcy as everything from a sharp-tongued critic to a kind and thoughtful friend by maintaining a solid core of strength and decency.

The Bennet girls are all different and all fun, but Kayla Dunbar carries off the difficult job of also playing Lizzie’s friend Charlotte Lucas; no easy feat.

There is also lots of music in and around this play. It is used to introduce the show, and very successfully to connect scenes and set the mood.

The legion of people who know the novel well will be surprised at how much of the story has simply been removed without it even being noticed. Many characters don’t appear at all and many scenes are bypassed, but the delightful essence of the famous tale has been retained.

The crowd on opening night loved it and so will you. But, don’t wait around to book tickets. Pride & Prejudice only runs until March 25. Call the box office at 1-800-565-7738.