Either you go for this riff on the classic or you don’t. This “Pride and Prejudice,” presented by Primary Stages in association with Jamie deRoy and a co-production with Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, is an onslaught of buffoonery by a cast that, as talented as it is, overacts to the hilt under the direction of Amanda Dehnert. Depending on one’s reaction, blame or praise can be aimed at playwright Kate Hamill, who based her travesty on Jane Austen’s famous novel.
On the night I saw the show, the audience generally whooped it up with laughter at the antics of the cast, several in more than one role. However, I had trouble joining in the revelry, as I am too engaged with the wit and meaning in Austen’s original to see the purpose of such no-holds-barred satire. I believe mockery works best with works that are pretentious and overblown, not with a revered work that stands on its own as worth admiring instead of deflating with theater of the ridiculous.
This romp includes songs to a rock beat by a cast that sometimes assembles to drive home the comedy. The basics are there—a mother intent on marrying off her daughters, who have their own ideas. The actor getting the most laughs is Mark Bedard with his broad portrayals of Mr. Collins, Ms. Bingley and Mr. Wickham. Kate Hamill, the author, also takes to the stage with a horrendously exaggerated portrayal of Lizzy. Others not to be underdone with their overacting in the assortment of roles include Kimberly Chatterjee, Jason O’Connell, Amelia Pedlow, Chris Thorn, John Tufts and Nance Williamson. The costume design by Tracy Christensen contributes skillfully to the overall outrageousness.
If this seems your cup of humor, the mayhem awaits you. If you find it cringe worthy, re-read Jane Austen instead. At the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street. Phone: 212-989-2020. Reviewed November 26, 2017.