By Marc Porter Zasada
Executive Editor, L.A. Opening Nights
If you have ever loved a Jane Austen novel, written a college essay about Jane Austen, or seen a Merchant Ivory production, you won’t want to miss Jane Austen Unscripted, the touring show at the Pasadena Playhouse through April 1. The remarkable Austen wrote just six novels, but the aggressively clever Impro Theatre troupe creates an entirely new Austen work three nights a week—with hilarious results.
Starting with a suggestion thrown off by the audience, the small ensemble improvises not just a few scenes, but a coherent 2-hour comedy, complete with preening noblemen, unmarried sisters, troubled-but-handsome-landowners, misunderstandings of the heart, and social faux pas that threaten the stability of drawing rooms in Regency England. It’s entirely different each night…but you can be fairly certain that two unmarried sisters, despite at first not comprehending their own hearts, will see the value of one landowner or another.
In the past, the Impro has given the same treatment to Shakespeare, Dickens, Sondheim, and Tennessee Williams.
We caught the show on March 4, when the ensemble was given the suggestion of “cummerbunds” and proceeded to create a play in which, yes, among their romantic troubles, the men of Bath were fixated on the latest fashion in cummerbunds. Seriously funny stuff, and terrific performances from directors Paul Rogan and Dan O’Connor, along with members of the rotating cast. It takes more than talent, it takes a special kind of literary wit to pull off this kind of graceful satire.
Period costumes and furniture set the mood—and half the fun is watching the players create the plot twists right in front of your eyes. It’s worth reading a little Emma in advance, just to get yourself in the mood.
Don’t miss it.
Remaining Performances (upstairs at the Carrie Hamilton Theatre at the Pasadena Playhouse)