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Jane Austen UnScripted-Review
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.
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?"
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.
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
Both in of search of
Taking a turn
Around the room
Ankle length dresses
In a choreographed dance
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
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