This week, I was wandering around South Granville, my lovely new neighbourhood, and was musing about romance–or the lack thereof. The chocolate shops along the street were festooned with red hearts, reminding me tauntingly that February 14th was fast approaching. I still had no idea what my boyfriend (“S”) had planned for Valentine’s Day but I had a sneaking suspicion it might not be as grand as I had envisioned.
And then, I looked up and saw the marquee for the Stanley Stage and took it as cupid giving me a sign that I didn’t need to wait for S to come up with a romantic date.
The Arts Club Theatre Company is currently presenting a dramatic adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage (2750 Granville Street) until February 28. The Stanley is one of my favourite theatre venues in the city. Dating back to 1930, it operated as a movie theatre for sixty years (its first screening was Lillian Gish’s first talkie, One Romantic Night) before eventually closing in 1991 and then reopening in 1998 as a gorgeous stage theatre. Whenever I visit, I picture what it must have been like in 1930s Vancouver (ten to forty cent admission prices, I wish!). Having Pride and Prejudice playing at this heritage space seems fitting.
First of all, I should admit to you that I am a crazily obsessed fan of Jane Austen. I own all her books, have read them countless times, and have taught Austen’s novels at UBC. I’ve also seen every movie of Pride and Prejudice that has been produced. That version with Colin Firth? During the times that I was single, I would watch it constantly, escaping into a fantasy realm where some dashing gentleman would fall madly in love with me.
Ahem. For those of you not quite so familiar with the storyline, Pride and Prejudice is set in 19th century England, and centres on the lives of the Bennett family. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett have the egregious fortune of having five (gasp) unmarried daughters, and even worse, the family estate is entailed to Mr. Bennett’s cousin, Mr. Collins.
Mrs. Bennett must find husbands for her unfortunate daughters, with the heart of the story located in the relationship that evolves between Elizabeth Bennett and the brooding Fitzwilliam Darcy. Misunderstandings and misinformation ensue, with the longed-for happy ending in question.
In this charming stage adaptation, expect a lavish production, complete with elaborate period costumes, top-notch portrayals, and elegant dance scenes. The script, by Governor General’s Award winner Janet Musil, condenses the story to just under two and a half hours (the BBC version is 5 hours long), while still retaining the repartee and ironic lines that Austen is known for: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Indeed.
And while Pride and Prejudice is, on the surface, a love story, it also is a larger social commentary on the position of women at the time, as well as the economics of class and marriage (if you’re trying to sell the play to a someone who cringes at sappy love stories).
A night out at the Stanley would be a wondrous date as it’s a chance to dress up, escape into the performance before you, and have something to discuss after. It could also be a great solo date or an outing with friends (instead of seeing the latest romcom flick). If you’re thinking of dinner beforehand, I’d recommend Siena, for its rustic and hearty Italian offerings (the linguine con vongole is always a good bet), Luke’s Corner Bar & Kitchen for more casual bites, or West if you feel like really doing the night up in style (Quang Dang’s cooking is ethereal).
Tickets start at $29 and can be purchased on-line or through the Box Office, either in-person or over the phone (604-687-1644). There are still seats available for all remaining performances (now until February 28) but don’t hesitate since they’re selling out quickly.