Jane Austen’s Emma, adapted from Austen’s novel by Michael Bloom and directed by Brooke Aiello for Fresno Pacific University, is a lovely production that will satisfy “Janeites” everywhere.
Shannon Brewington’s alley stage “covered” in parchment with lines from the novel scratched in like 19th century letters captures Emma’s machinations as if they’re indeed written straight from Austen’s mind. The limited color palette of the set utilizing the bare minimum of period-esque furniture sets off Aiello’s floral-inspired Regency costumes beautifully.
Allison Calhoun makes an energetic yet mellifluous Emma, a character more likeable in this production than is often the case with Emma. Luke Fredette gives a hilarious turn as the delicate Mr. Woodhouse, Trey Jones is smooth and polished as Mr. Elton, whose proposal scene was delivered with panache. Alyssa Gaynor proves especially poignant as a sympathetic and grounded Miss Bates. On the whole, the production features a fine ensemble cast full of surprising turns and does ample justice to Austen’s characters and the period style. Aiello’s direction teases out the theatricality in the story and fills the stage with active performances where ever the audience looks.
In this adaptation, a constantly soliloquizing Emma uses language drawn straight from the novel, often during shift changes. My one and only complaint is that the the shift changes occasionally overshadowed the actor speaking, but the action of the play never slows and the pace is pleasing and buoyant.
I highly recommend this production if you wish to see Austen done theatrically and exceedingly well paired with performances worthy of the source material.
Only four performances remain:
Information: Jane Austen’s Emma at Fresno Pacific University.
March 28, 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. and March 31 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $14 available ONLINE or at the door 1 hour prior to showtime.
Location: The Seminary Chapel at Fresno Pacific University (off of Butler Avenue at Chestnut).