Persuasion and Prejudice

Upper class society, a tale of love and loss, and a complicated family provide a hallmark for Jane Austen’s stories, and “Persuasion” is no exception.

The Indiana University Summer Theatre group’s production of this Austen classic accurately portrays the complicated romantic situations that many of the author’s classic characters tend to find themselves in. This version of the story was directed by Dale McFadden and adapted by Jennifer Le Blanc.

The story follows Anne Elliot, the forgotten daughter of an upper society man, in her journey to re-find love that was lost. Along the way she deals with jealousy, complicated family issues, and a scheming cousin.

Fans of Austen’s work may notice many similarities between themes and characters that fall in line with some of her other works such as “Pride and Prejudice”. Anne, like Elizabeth Bennet, is a forgotten child, who for the most part is ignored by her family. This adaptation of the play portrays Anne in a way that truly helped the patron feel her pain at her lack of love and familial neglect. This kind of character creates a trademark for Austen’s stories that gives her tales a distinct voice and point of view.

The themes of love and lost also carry through both stories and add a sense of sophistication as well as pain that few other than Miss Jane can so believably create.  Like “Pride and Prejudice,” “Persuasion” features characters unsure of other’s feelings and a romantic back and forth of uncertainty and some disdain (although in the case of Elizabeth and Darcy it is much more profound) that eventually results in a new found love.  The theater company choose to do a play that was so quintessentially Austen because of the 200th anniversary of her death, and with this knowledge a new level of loss and admiration is added to the performance.

Whatever the reasons for this choice of play, the portrayal was a success. Part of this success is due to the acting and set design.

Unlike many college plays, this summer the program brought in actors from the Actors’ Equity Association to play some of the roles.  However, the role of Anne was given to Ashley Dillard, a recent received her MFA from University of Indiana at Bloomington. Dillard beautifully portrayed Anne in a way that truly made the audience feel her pain and regret. That being said, her British accent did fall out a few times.  Even though Dillard was the lead, the rest of the cast also provided powerful performances.

Every set in the play consisted of the same few pieces of furniture giving the play a simple elegance that is needed for such a story.

You can buy tickets to “Persuasion” on the IU Theatre website. Showtimes are July 20 and 22 at 7 p.m. and July 23 at 2 p.m.