Humor and Romance coming to Newhart Theatre in ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Pride and Prejudice, the iconic novel by Jane Austen, is coming to Newhart Theater from Feb. 23-26.

“Pride and Prejudice” is a beloved novel that has inspired romantic notions for generations. The tale has been revived repeatedly both in film and television, from the 1939 version starring Laurence Olivier to the 2005 version starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen.

The story features intrigue, ballroom dancing and 18th century gossip. Jane Austen expertly crafted relatable characters that still appeal to modern audiences. 

Sophomore Jennifer Hessel, a theater and psychology major, is playing Elizabeth Bennet, the story’s strong-willed heroine. Elizabeth is initially stubborn, erudite, clever — and prideful. Hessel said it was wonderful to delve into the dynamic and flawed character.

“I think that’s how so many different kinds of people can resonate with her and I think that’s one of the reasons why she’s such a beloved literary character,” Hessel, 21, said.

In certain interpretations, Austen’s characters have been heralded as revolutionary feminists. Despite rebelling against restrictive patriarchal norms, there’s an undeniable conservative strain in Austen’s work. Hessel said she wanted to focus on the raw character, removed from political contexts not present during Regency era England.

“I think there’s so many modern interpretations of her that kind of ignore the truth of the cultural context and ignore the truth of who Elizatbeth is,” Hessel said. 

Elizabeth’s foil, the standoffish and uptight Mr. Darcy, is played by Alex de Foy, a sophomore studying economics. de Foy said homework and research were helpful in preparing for the role of Mr. Darcy, including watching the 1995 BBC miniseries featuring Colin Firth as Darcy.

“Trying to figure out what he wants and why he does what he does, but also the way that he behaves,” de Foy said. “Everyone behaves differently even if they want the same things.”

de Foy also referenced his own major, saying he was particularly interested in studying the economic functions of the time, as his character is in the top .001% in terms of wealth.

Austen’s writing can at first seem impenetrable to modern readers unable to recognize the novel’s humorous underlinings, but de Foy said the social interactions are what make “Pride and Prejudice” so timeless.

“We have technology nowadays, and we fancy ourselves so much smarter that people were back then, but we’re not, and we have all the same problems and the same social awkwardness,” de Foy said.

Wit is a crucial component of Austen’s work to which the show is paying homage. Momina Shahzad, a senior finance major, is playing Mary Bennet, the middle child and black sheep of the Bennet family. She said the production leaned into the comedy of the work.

Hessel also said she appreciated the clever humor of the show.

“When Lizzie expresses herself, I love that it’s kind of like subtle sarcastic commentary,” Hessel said. “Everything is really subtle, but that’s almost what makes it fun.”

“Pride and Prejudice” will be running from Feb. 23-26. Tickets are available at Loyola’s Fine and Performing Art website.

Featured image courtesy of Joe Mazza

Correction: In the original version of this article, Alex de Foy’s name was spelled incorrectly. This has since been corrected.

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