Austen, Done Admirably

Main Street stages a properly proper Pride and Prejudice

That the sprawling cast delivers Austen's sophisticated syntax with uniform coherence offsets the fluctuations in accents that keep cropping up. Every bit the "accomplished woman" the text calls her, Penny Alfrey as Elizabeth displays an agreeable smile, a lively spirit and a well-placed intelligence, all the while suggesting that she has a thing or two to learn. As written, Mr. Darcy is at first, if not exactly likable, then certainly honorable for being forthright; by the end, he's embraced for his very reputability. But totally misconceiving the role, the usually thoughtful Kent Johnson goes instead from insufferable prig to romantic leading man. The only thing that saves him is the chemistry between himself and Alfrey.

Rapidly becoming a set designer to reckon with, Doug Gettel has created elegantly understated drawing rooms that serve as tasteful suggestions of numerous posh locales. Thanks to Udden's luscious costume designs, they're filled with the finest society. In fact, Main Street itself is now in the finest society, mounting this show on its newly acquired second stage in Chelsea Market in the Museum District. The acting area is much bigger and more adaptable than Main Street's small, structurally confining site on Times Boulevard. It's too fine a space to, as is currently planned, be used only for Main Street's children's theater and the occasional large production such as this one. Though up and running, the second stage is still under construction, though that's probably gauche of me to point out. For as one of the Bennets notes, "Exertion should always be in proportion to what is required." Main Street is moving up in the theatrical world.

Pride and Prejudice plays through March 9 at Main Street Theater at Chelsea Market, 4617 Montrose, 524-6706.

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