South City proudly takes on Austen

Published 5:54 pm Thursday, June 11, 2009

South City Theatre might not have the space to recreate all of Jane Austen’s England, but director Kenny Morris believes they have the talent to recreate the essence of Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

“I love Jane Austen. I love classical literature and the romance of it all,” Morris said. “But this play is also witty and clever, and contains really strong characters.”

Two of those characters include the lovable Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, played by Susan Cook and Shawn Reese.

“My character is such a fascinating man,” Reese said. “He has so many different levels to him. You have to read between the lines to really get him.”

Cook found herself excited by the opportunity to portray the beloved Lizzie.

“I found myself thinking, ‘I really hope I measure up to everyone’s Elizabeth,’” Cook said.

Elizabeth encompasses characteristics of both genteel and modern young women. She’s courteous, yet not afraid to take Mr. Darcy to task for what she perceives to be a smug disposition,” Cook said.

“Working with other seasoned actors allows you to really live in this period,” Reese said. “I particularly love arguing with her.”

The two argue many times before finally giving in to their true feelings.

They fight over his interference with her sister Jane’s relationship with Mr. Bingley and over lies told by Mr. Wickham.

Cook said she believes the play has something for everyone. Even people who have never read the story will fall in love with it, she said.

“It’s visually entertaining,” Cook said. “And it’s very different for the area; this is so far removed from what most people would be used to seeing.”

Portraying the period in an accurate fashion was of particular concern to Morris, who traveled to Bath, England and visited the Jane Austen Center earlier this year.

“Considering the period costumes and English accents, we weren’t sure how easy it would be to pull off,” Morris said. “It was daunting in the beginning.”

Discovering talented actors to fill the play’s many roles was not an issue.

Morris said the theater received more response from this play than any other in the past. He said 55 people auditioned for parts compared to about 30 for past plays.

“We ended up with a truly fantastic cast,” Morris said. “We have someone playing a servant who has been a director and a lead actor.”

Many cast members have driven from as far as Trussville to rehearse for the past seven weeks.

Opening night is Friday, June 12 at 8 p.m. The play will continue June 18–21 and June 25–28. Sunday shows will be at 2 p.m. All other shows open at 8 p.m.

Tickets for the show are $15 for individuals or $12 per person for groups of 10 or more.