Boxcar Youth Theatre Company brings a turn-of-the-century love story to life in its opening season-opening production, “Pride and Prejudice,” on-stage at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Hastings High School auditorium.
The famous classic from author Jane Austen features a cast of 19 and presents a unique challenge to both actors and audiences alike as both grapple with period language that is drastically different from how people communicate today. Ahvienda Montague, a veteran of several Boxcar productions, plays lead character Elizabeth Bennett, the youngest of four daughters whose parents are looking to marry them off into wealthy families. First-time player Kael Nissen portrays her love interest, Mr. Darcy. Linnea Howie, another Boxcar veteran, plays oldest daughter Jane Bennett, who technically is supposed to be the first in line to be married off by her parents.
Jennifer Kalvelage, Boxcar co-founder and board president, said the production was selected to appease the actors, who had asked for a play that was bit more classical in nature than previous offerings. The old English script delivers just that, making it one of the more daunting scripts tackled by the company.
“The kind of language used in this play is not what kids are used to these days,” Kalvelage said. “The way they talk is very formal, so just learning the lines alone is a challenging prospect for these kids. But they are doing really well and I think it’s turning out great.”
Period costuming sewn by Kalvelage and other volunteers help set the tone for what she describes as a romantic comedy worthy of recognition as one of the true classics. Audience members will not be disappointed in the telling, she said.
“If you like Jane Austen, you are going to love it,” she said.
Director Diedre Freitas, a former Boxcar player studying theater at York College, is directing the play. Getting the students to learn and understand period language was integral to making the play work, she said.
“It was tricky because there were points in the script where I realized the kids didn’t quite understand what the characters were saying in that moment,” she said. “They get the overreaching girl and guy falling in love, but some of the things that come in between they didn’t quite get. I talked with them a lot about language and what it was like in 19th century England verses 21st century United States.
“I just wanted to present the classic story and have it told in a way that keeps it familiar but also educates the kids about the story itself. Asking around how many of them knew the story, I found that it was a lot less than I had anticipated. They knew Jane Austen, but they really didn’t know a lot of her work.”
Freitas said the underlying message of the production stands the test of time, one she hopes audience members will be able to connect with as it unfolds. Certainly the cast has done its due diligence in its interpretation of a script that demands attention to detail, she said.
“The actors and actresses have all worked incredibly hard to get to the place where it is now,” she said. “It’s a really good story and it has a genuine message in it: Be true to who you are. Because in the end, that’s what helps the two of them (Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy) figure out themselves. A lot of the problems in the story come from people trying to keep up appearances that aren’t who they really are, and when you’re honest with others, things are more likely to go your way.”
Tickets are available at the door. For additional information, visit Boxcar’s homepage online at boxcaryouththeatrecompany.org.