Jane Austen UnScripted-Review

Cast (Left to Right) Brian Lehman, Stephen Kearin, Tracy Burns, Edi Patterson, Lisa Fredrickson, Paul Rogan and Dan O'Connor
Cast (Left to Right) Brian Lehman, Stephen Kearin, Tracy Burns, Edi Patterson, Lisa Fredrickson, Paul Rogan and Dan O'Connor
In the Carrie Hamilton Theater at the Pasadena Playhouse until April 1, 2012
In the Carrie Hamilton Theater at the Pasadena Playhouse until April 1, 2012

They walked on stage in the intimate little theater, dressed in period costume and asked for a word used in conversation which would set the play in motion. The word was "cummerbund" and faster than you could say "unpredictable" they were off into fashion emergencies and scandals. The plot developed right before our eyes--trivialities spun into golden wit and non-stop humor. Complexities of personality and convoluted romance slowly weaved themselves into a colorful period tapestry of which Jane herself would be proud.

Sisters, familiarly different in looks and temperament, became multi-layered and attractive in completely new ways. Suitors, dandies and introspectives played off each other in ever more colorful and intriguing wordplay. Intrigues of alienated affection, unlikely alliances, slighted feelings, misunderstandings and strong emotions all worked out before your eyes. Authentic dance scenes allowed the characters to interact and develop new-found attachments.

I came into the play expecting talented improvisation, but as a writer I fully expected the plot to be necessarily weak and haphazardly developed. What I found was just the opposite. The storyline was strong, the progression seamless and while the typical Jane Austen themes were faithfully employed, the script was fresh and the romances compelling.

Edmund (Stephen Kearin)
Edmund (Stephen Kearin)
Melissa (Lisa Fredrickson)
Melissa (Lisa Fredrickson)

The audience was asked which characters they would like to see on stage first during the second half and suprisingly, the "plain" sister, Melissa and the odd companion of the "handsome" lead, Edmund, were the ones chosen.

As the scene begins, Edmund is observed gently practicing dance steps with which he had experienced difficulty in the just concluded dance. His character had already been developed and his mannerisms evoked waves of laughter through the room.

Melissa, entering the room: "Mr. Smith."

Edmund: "I'm sorry, I must be taking you from the others."

Melissa: "No, the dance is going on downstairs and you seemed to be missing."

Edmund: "Yes, I came up here to get...less....air." (Peals of laughter)

(As the two of them awkwardly pursue conversation, periods of quiet ensue)

Melissa: "You seem to be quiet."

Edmund: "I like quiet. In fact, in between, as we were talking there was a long moment of quiet."

Melissa: "I'm sorry."

Edmund: "No I liked it. I was wondering if we might do that again?"(Delighted laughter)

Melissa (Looking a little quizzical) "Alright." (silence follows)

Edmund: "That was lovely." (more laughter)

(conversation follows about the scenery out the balcony and night blooming jasmine)

Melissa: "Have you ever had your heart broken?"

Edmund: "Yes."

Melissa: "I never have." (she had earlier confided that it was said that one could not really love until they had their heart broken) "Would you mind telling me what it felt like?"

The two of them, in faltering and completely endearing ways, found themselves kindred souls and began to fall in love. When another character impugns his character, Melissa is heart-broken until the truth finally comes out--completely exonerating him. Love, in the end, triumphant.

Beau Tadler (Paul Rogan)
Beau Tadler (Paul Rogan)

The production was directed by Dan O'Connor and Paul Rogan. Rogan's character, Beau Tadler, was colorfully developed and managed to interject little barbs or turns of character in just the right moment to achieve non-stop laughs and color.

The show, presented by the Pasadena Playhouse in their Carrie Hamilton Theater was produced by Dan O'Connor and Impro Theater, an Unscripted Repertory theater company based in Los Angeles.

I count my experience at Jane Austen UnScripted as one of the highlights of my year. If this little troop comes to your town, do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to the box office or go online and purchase tickets. You will not only be entertained, but you will find awakening in your own heart the Rumpelstiltskin ability to spin out of the straw of everyday life, improvisational gold.



Love According to Jane

Gentleman's pride

Lady's prejudice

Both in of search of

Victorian kiss

Taking a turn

Around the room

Ankle length dresses

Sweet perfume

Switching partners

In a choreographed dance

Curtsy, bow

Coquettish glance

Affairs of finance

Affairs of the heart

Fortune and romance

Villains and tarts

Ladies become strong

In a world ruled by men

For in a world ruled by love

All win in the end

©Winsome Publishing 2011, All rights reserved


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Comments 23 comments

hildred profile image

hildred 4 years ago from Oregon, USA

Interesting! I would definitely be interested in seeing something like this. Cannot deny the real talent of some incredibly actors, writers, and directors out there.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hi Hildred, you will be blown away. The adrenalin must be pumping in those guys the whole time. Even when they slip up they use it in the plot and get more laughs each time it comes up. Thanks for the visit and comment. =:)


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

If the actors are as witty as your hub, Winsome, this play would be a treat. Do you think Florida is anywhere on their agenda? Would love to see this improv play.


Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

I will keep a look out for this one. Sounds like a lot of fun! I'm an Austin fan as well :)


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hi Doc, and yes they are delightfully witty. It must be both exhilarating and exhausting to create as quickly and for such a sustained period of time as they do, but they do it every night with smiles and laughter.

I would bet Florida is on their itinerary but you can find out more here---

http://improtheatre.com/

Thanks for the visit and kind words. =:)


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey Hillary, good to see you. I think Jane would be tickled by these fun-loving but true to form actors. They do her credit and if they were to keep track of all the stories they are creating, it would make an excellent collection of short Jane Austen plays. I personally would love to see them recorded and available on itunes or something.

Thank you for coming by. =:)


TToombs08 profile image

TToombs08 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

What a lovely review. I will have to take it in if I ever get the chance. Thank you for this wonderfully written hub! Voted up and across.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Thank you TT, I hope you do get the chance. North Dakota sounds perfect for Jane Austen--there are enough horses for the carriages and the period costumes would fit in well. Even the dances are "line" dances of a sort. Surely they will come. =:)

I have thought at times to write a story that takes place in a fictional "West Dakota." A land where all the oddities of everyday life are ordinary and only life as we know it is peculiar. Maybe I will write it as a hub--should be fun.


Derdriu 4 years ago

Winsome, What an audience-friendly, inviting, welcoming review of a spontaneous, successfully improvised play! The excerpts, the explanations, the photos and the poem all encourage readers to read to the end and then find out where the nearest upcoming spontaneous performance will be.

Thank you for sharing, voted up + all.

Respectfully, Derdriu


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Derdriu, you are so nice. Thank you. I really did have fun, I guess you can tell. It makes me want to get a bunch of us together and improvise a play on HP. Full costume! Just kidding. =:)


Phoebe Pike 4 years ago

That sounds like an incredible performance. It must have been awesome to see it!


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hi Phoebe, yes it was like I was in a role playing game and I just hadn't been called into the adventure as a character yet. Be sure and check an improv production out if one comes to your area. =:)


Phoebe Pike 4 years ago

We have the "Wing nuts", there are pretty good. I almost joined, but I didn't have time to do it with my family and jobs.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Ha ha, "Wing Nuts," I like it. "Tonight the character of Cleopatra Jones will be played by Phoebe Pike." Cool. =: )


Phoebe Pike 4 years ago

I actually did a lot of theater in school. It was a passion for me for a long time.


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 4 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

I love love love love love to go to plays. Live performances are an experience to remember. The Rep Theater here at my old university is absolutely fabulous for putting on great plays. It's been a few months since I've seen one actually. I would have loved to see this one with you. If you're ever in St. Louis, we'll have to go to a play!


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

You're on. I have actually been thinking of a trip to St. Louis. There seems to be so much life there and unlike most coast people, I do believe you can have a special community in the heart of the country. I just checked and one of my favorite John Cusak films is a play at the New Line Theater--High Fidelity. It ends 6/23 though--not sure I could pull it off that soon. Brighton Beach Memoirs is in September at the Rep so for sure I could make that one.

What fun--I'm glad you love plays. You know the Pasadena Playhouse is just down the street from me and War Horse and Anything Goes is playing in LA . =:)


i scribble profile image

i scribble 4 years ago

I've never seen anything like this, but I love anything Austen, or Austenish. Another eloquent review, Winsome. I usually prefer movies, but I occasionally make an exception. This definitely sounds worthwhile.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hello IS, I agree with you about the movies, but when a play succeeds there is nothing like it. Being in the middle of real life improvisation or even regular dramatization involves you at a level no movie can pull off. What did Hamlet say, "The plays the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Thank you for the kind comment, I will try to live up to your impression. =:)


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 4 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

E-mail me when you think you might be coming into town so I can get tickets. Where do you like to sit when you watch plays. I find it makes a difference. You never know where most of the action will be. Have you ever been to a revolving stage, you know, those circle stages? I haven't.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

I will. Frieda, you won't believe this, but when you wrote the comment and it buzzed on my phone, Aspect of Error was open on my computer and I was halfway into a poem built upon the missing part of Zuback's title and your last lines. I'll email it to you. Talk about links.

As to seating, I like to sit as close as I can and still see everything, but the reality of the ticket process leads me to believe all seats are wonderful. I saw Fiddler on the Roof at the Ahmanson and my back was against the far wall of the theater where I sat enthralled. I have been to a circular stage and even where they come into the audience.

Do you have a particular play in mind? =:)


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 4 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

I feel so bad now because I just unpublished it. Time for it to go somewhere else, but I'll let you know where it goes when it gets there. Yes, do e-mail it to me! Fabulous.

No particular play in mind, I'll see when the time comes closer and we can decide together I suppose.

I find that unless you see a play in its entirety via a variety of seats, you can't really tell what the best would be. And taking into consideration the fact that ones experience changes and is different simply by the mere moment that he or she is in while watching, this idea of a best view will forever remain relative.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Don't feel bad about moving the poem, a line or two was like a glimpse between the blinds and the muse of them escaped safely into my imagination.

It will be fun deciding when the time comes.

From where I sit, I am enjoying the play very much. =:)

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