Based on the twittering of the young women in the row ahead of me and, more importantly, on the word of Katherine Platten, my lady and a woman who really cares about this sort of thing, Andrew Deryckes’ portrayal of Mr. Darcy in Portland Center Stage’s performance of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” is sublime. Colin Firth, who played Mr. Darcy in the BBC miniseries, seated his performance in devastating good looks and became the standard by which all others are measured. But Deryckes’ performance rests in excellent acting and an astute interpretation of the character. And as evidenced by the aforementioned twittering, his good looks aren’t in question.
If all this means nothing to you, it is more than likely that you have a Y chromosome. So for these individuals let me cut to the chase. Taking a date to see this performance will increase your chances of getting laid. Just sit back and let Mr. Deryckes do the work for you.
“Pride and Prejudice” is the timeless story of Elizabeth Bennet, one of five daughters of the monetarily-challenged Bennet clan. The story follows her in English society as she watches her sisters attempt to find husbands. She comes face to face with the pride of the upper classes, embodied by one stiff, disagreeable, rich and handsome Mr. Darcy. Ms. Platten clarifies Mr. Darcy’s role in this way: “He represents every woman’s desperate need to humble a man.”
It should be noted that the adaptation of Jane Austen’s oft-interpreted comic novel, as performed by Portland Center Stage’s multi-talented cast, is about as close as you will get to Jane Austen’s language without actually reading the book. This is accomplished by keeping a good deal of the narrative passages intact and allowing the characters to speak them in turn. This device is used to great effect and allows the characters to have entire conversations without actually having to have the conversations. This has allowed the epic, which spawned a two-week BBC miniseries, to be cut to a reasonable two hours without gutting Austen’s lovely prose.
Of course, the temptation when working with this kind of subject is to create large costumes and sets that allow the audience to really experience the grandiose country manors that Austen and women like her populated through the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Portland Center Stage, however, has bucked the trend by allowing Austen’s work to stand on its own, with only the aid of good acting and a few chairs. The biggest danger here is that with so little to go on an audience might lose interest. But the performance is well paced and there is enough action to keep things rolling, especially in the hectic second act when letters arrive with the expediency of e-mail and cross country trips that happen at jet speed.
The Y-chromosome types might be wondering why they should see this performance, besides the increased chances of getting laid. First of all, men are slobs and a little culture might do them good. Second, Jane Austen makes women wiggly and they wiggle as much on stage as they do in the audience. Third, tickets for anyone under 30 years of age are only $15 for any Portland Center Stage production, so cough it up, cheapskate. Finally, the plot twists that make Austen’s novel so pleasurable are quite alive in this adaptation and it is both well acted and paced, holding the attention of even the most video game addled mind. Portland Center Stage should be commended for this effort.
“Pride and Prejudice” runs until Nov. 20. Tickets are $15-16. For more information go to www.pcs.org or call Portland Center Stage at 503-274-6588.