After Mr. Darcy’s solemn exchange with Elizabeth Bennet, in which he declares his love, the theater darkened and applause erupted.
“Is that the end?” I asked.
“Intermission,” Susan said.
My heart sank. The first act of this turgid production of “Pride and Prejudice” had dragged on for about an hour and forty minutes. Of all the University of Michigan Department of Theater & Drama productions we’ve seen, this one ranked right down there at the bottom with “Three Sisters,” from way back in 1994 or so. Unlike the postmodern bizarreness of that production, here Director Timothy Douglas had the cockamamie idea of interfusing 1960s music and dancing with this Victorian comedy. (Austen’s works are always called comedies, but I have yet to laugh.) On the one hand, it was fascinating to watch the cast act out ballroom scenes while frugging and hippy-hippy-shaking, with a soundtrack that included cuts by Donovan (“Sunshine Superman” and “Mellow Yellow”). But it had also been fascinating to watch the governor of New York self-destruct with a prostitute. Meanwhile, the flower-power lighting projected against the scenic backdrops was just weird.
Making things worse, the actors really weren’t very good. The show dragged. Darcy’s lines were hard to hear—I know he’s supposed to be taciturn, but how about speaking up?
To someone’s question beforehand of why I was even attending this show, I could only respond that I had purchased a series of tickets for U-M productions, including opera, dance, Broadway, and this play. I’d had to miss the opera, “Eugene Onegin,” which was reportedly sensational, so I didn’t want to stand up my wife by asking if she wouldn’t mind going with one of her friends. The audience was made up of a lot of older couples, several groups of women students, and a few not-so-virile younger guys on dates. It had been a snowy day and the floor tiles in the Power Center’s lobby were wet, which led one of these frail fellows to say to his girl, “It’s slippery in here. Someone could get hurt.”
I very nearly called out, “You should wear a helmet.”
On top of all that, during the show, I squirmed in the seat because it had only been three weeks since my surgery and the incision still is healing.
That’s why I was so delighted when Susan said, “This is awful. Let’s go.”
It took little convincing. The Big Twelve championship game was on TV, and there was beer in the fridge.