OSWEGO — The SUNY Oswego theatre department will premiere its spring play, “Pride & Prejudice,” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 21, at Waterman Theatre — a show that one of its lead actors, freshman Sean Ryan as Mr. Darcy, describes as about “first impressions.”
Adapted by Jon Jory from Jane Austen’s classic 19th century novel, the college’s production also will run at 7:30 p.m. April 22 and 29, with a concluding matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30.
The show will preview at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20.
The cast showcases Alex Matsu, whose character Elizabeth Bennet meets Mr. Darcy and is immediately repulsed by the man, and vice versa.
An enduring symbol of early feminism, Bennet refuses to follow the expectations British society has for women.
“First impressions within our society now, and even in the world of the show, have everything to do with feminism,” Ryan said. “When women first introduce themselves, they are defined by their gender, they are expected to conform to a prewritten script. In ‘Pride & Prejudice,’ Elizabeth doesn’t follow the script, she pushes boundaries and lives as she sees fit — not letting a men tell her how to.”
First impressions — the original title of Austen’s book — can often be misleading.
The production delves deeper into this issue, Ryan said, exploring what happens when facts and a growing love leave those initial impressions far behind.
Ryan describes SUNY Oswego’s adaptation as very relatable to audiences — some lines and mannerisms of the original would have been lost on modern audience.
Theatre faculty member Mya Brown, who directs the play, agreed. “We’re playing with contemporary elements,” she said.
Nevertheless, Ryan said Brown and the cast have gone to great lengths to capture the essence of a time when British society dictated how people should live their “proper roles.”
One of the primary features of the play is the use of language to convey purpose and meaning, so each actor must speak with a British accent.
The actors work with a dialect coach based in Washington, D.C. The cast members Skype with the coach one-on-one and also as an ensemble, working, for example, with diagrams for exercises on how to breathe when speaking in British dialect.
“Americans tend to punch words; with British dialect they pause — if you want to know something you know it,” said Ryan, who describes the feel of British dialect as “smarter; clean and crisp.”
During rehearsals, the director speaks in the same dialect as the actors in the play.
Before rehearsal, Brown has each actor walk about the room. She describes it as “moving about in the space to find their character. You are the character — you walk with purpose and focus on what is your main objective.”
Ryan said, “It is easy to get into the world of the play when you’re not stepping out of it.”
Brown doesn’t hold back, Ryan said. Her ability to be up front and honest with her actors is “very liberating.” She asks her actors questions: “Why do you do this? What is your motivation?” This helps the actors get to know how they can be the characters and morph into their roles.
“Oswego is very lucky to have a director like her,” Ryan said. “She is very intelligent and I respect her immensely — we really hope the community gets something out of this production.”
Other leading cast members include Evan Debevec McKenney as Mr. Bennet, Cadi Hannold (Mrs. Bennet), Logan Colby Rowe (Jane Bennet), Ryan Pacheco (Mr. Bingley), and Maxwell Palese (Mr. Collins).
The cast also features Sydney Lattenhauer (Lydia Bennet), Kayla Bonasera (Kitty Bennet/Georgiana Darcy), Marisa Miner (Mary Bennet/Charlotte Lucas), Nicholas Cocks (George Wickham), Kristen Beyer (Miss Bingley/housekeeper), Peter Mahan (Sir William Lucas), Wyatt Gilbert (Mr. Gardiner), Evan Ribaudo (Fitzwilliam), Molly Horth (Mrs. Gardiner), Matthew McCabe (servant/soldier) and Anna Chichester (Lady Catherine DeBourgh).
Tickets for “Pride & Prejudice” are $15 ($7 for SUNY Oswego students with ID), available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 315-312-2141.
All tickets to the April 20 preview performance are $5.
Parking is included in the price of a ticket, and is available in the employee lot in front of Culkin Hall and the employee and commuter lots behind Hart and Funnelle residence halls.
Those attending that are in need of assistance should contact the box office prior to the performance.