BCP’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ puts humor into marriage quests

Emma Nelson, left, Renee Celeste, Emily Aguilar and Angel Baker play the Bennet Sisters in BCP’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Photo by Andy Coughlan

Take a little bit of “Rue Paul’s Drag Race,” a little “Bridgerton,” a hint of “Parks and Rec,” a sprinkle of 1930s screwball comedies and mix it with director Julia Rodriguez’s flair and you still won’t be prepared for “Pride and Prejudice.”

Beaumont Community Players’ latest production, which opens Jan. 21, is unlike anything seen on local stages, Rodriguez said. Playwright Kate Hamill’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel has physical humor, some naughty jokes and is a laugh-a-minute show, she said.

“‘Pride and Prejudice’ is not a billowing, sweeping, romantic story,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a satire about the lives that women went through — they were chattel, sincerely. That’s Hamill’s take on Jane Austen in general.”

The play is a period piece — well, loosely, Rodriguez said, with anachronisms that are important to the vibe of the show.

“Kate Hamill said she was heavily inspired by screwball comedies of the ’30s. So, the costume is going to be period-ish — as close to the period as we can get with the Regency-era dresses, but the hair and makeup is going to be reflective of the ’30s. I feel like most people, when they think of glamour, they think of old Hollywood glamour.

“The world (the characters) are living in, they’re all playing the game to get married, so, they’ve got to put on their red lipstick and curl their hair.”

The general perception of Jane Austen’s works is as comedies of manners, but Rodriguez said there are serious undertones.

“It might seem fun or silly, but these women had no agency, and whatever the result of the game is, once you’re married, the pomp and circumstance of being married, the real-life repercussions are it’s not a game.”

Chaz Romero plays Mr. Darcy, the show’s romantic lead. He said he had not read the book but knew the relationship between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett was an iconic symbol of romance.

“‘Pride and Prejudice’ has always been the ideal version of romance, but in reality, the life of the women back then was not good, it was not good at all,” he said. “Hopefully, the audience can look at the story in a different perspective and see that, hey, yeah, this great romance. But, honestly, a lot of these women just married for money. They didn’t marry for love. I think that’s something that the audience can see with this play.”

Chaz Romero, left, and emily Aguilar play Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett in BCP’s production of “Pride and Prejudice,” which open Jan. 21. Photo by Andy Coughlan

Romero said that Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth were bywords for romantic love, and he assumed that Darcy was a hot-shot, rich man, cool dude.

“But in reality, he’s kind of a lonely, outcast loser, and it’s been fun to play up that side of it,” Romero said.

Unlike Romero, Emily Aguilar, who plays Elizabeth Bennett, is a “Pride and Prejudice” fan. She said the 2005 film with Kiera Knightly is her second-favorite movie, and she remembers reading the book in high school where the teacher showed the movie to the class and she got to share it with her friends. While the play has a different tone, Aguilar said she still relates to Jane Austen’s themes.

“While it is not your grandmother’s ‘Pride and Prejudice,” the characters are still there, the drama — the love is still there,” she said. “But with just so much humor, and so much calling things as it was in a very fun way. If you’re like me and you grew up loving ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ reading the book, watching the movies, you will still enjoy this play.”

Aguilar said the play enhances Austen’s work. The author was ahead of her time, just by being a woman writer.

“I read somewhere that maybe if she could have been a little more bold, maybe some of the stuff you see in the play would have been in the original book, because it was forward for its time,” Aguilar said.

The most important thing that Aguilar had to do was not take herself so seriously in the role, she said.

“Being a diehard OG fan, it is this huge, dramatic love story,” she said. “But bringing in all the fun and comedy (I could) not take myself so seriously. This has really been so much fun for me.”

Despite Darcy and Elizabeth being the central romance in the play, Aguilar said she keeps correcting people who say she is the lead.

“No, Mrs. Bennett is the lead, she’s driving everything,” Aguilar said.

Anna Goss, left Emma Nelson, Renee Celeste, Chaz Romero, Angel Baker and Emily Aguilar rehearse a scene from BCP’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Photo by Andy Coughlan

This is Rodriguez’s third directing project, and she said she is trying to play with theatrical conventions to create something unique.

“For the person who is into theater or into ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ this is going to be completely unique and different to anything that they’ve ever seen,” she said.

The large cast will include actors playing more than one character and not always the same gender. Rodriguez’s blind casting meaning actors of different races play siblings. The cast ranges in age from 16 to 72 to reflect to the community and the talents they have, Rodriguez said.

“It’safunshowthatIthinkwillbring in people who were not into theater before, and get them thinking, ‘Oh, you know, maybe I’ll go see another show,” she said. “And for people who already like theater, it’s going to be so different than anything they’ve seen a BCP.

“I think it’s going to be a delightful experience. There will never be another production like this one.”

Showtimes for “Pride and Prejudice”are7:30p.m.,Jan.21,22,28,29,Feb. 3, 4, 5, with a 2 p.m. matinee Jan. 29.

BCP is located at 4155 Laurel Ave. in Beaumont. For tickets, visit www.beaumontstages.com.

This story originally appeared the Jan. 7, 2022, Art of Living section of The Beaumont Enterprise.

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