Metro Theatre, March 30th - April 20th

PERSUASION

My Two Cents

Persuasion isn’t an entry-level Jane Austen story. Compared to the fiesty Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice, or the impetuous Emma Woodhouse in Emma, Anne Elliott is a more distant protagonist. Her thoughtfulness gives us some wonderful 200 year-old feminist moments, which is a pleasure to experience. However, this restraint can also make Anne feel a bit dry as a stage presence.

If you’ve seen or read more famous Austen works, then you’ll recognize many of the types in this story: foolish relatives, schemers, and well-meaning friends are all throwing complications into the love story. It’s a pleasure to see all of the ridiculous vanities and aspects of human nature on display, with just the right amount of exaggeration involved. In Metro Theatre’s production, twelve performers take on twenty-one characters, which is not simple task! Isabella Ciccone, Kimball Finigan, and Sarah Prato were especially distinct in their various characters, with costume, physicality, and voice clearly defined. Other character doublings weren’t as clear, which made the storyline a bit confusing. Accents, vocal inflection, and pacing were also uneven at times, which made some scenes difficult to follow. Some neighbouring audience members wished they had chosen seats closer to the stage.

The first reveal of the set was beautifully minimalistic, with picture frames suspended in place of walls. Other technical elements were also well done, with beautiful music, dance, and period dress setting the scene. So many of the pieces were in place for an enjoyable night, but it was difficult to buy into the central romance of Anne and Frederick. The two characters are reunited after being in love before, and their contrasting personalities was one of the main forces keeping them apart. Actors Mikayla Wust and Quinn Matthews both have strong stage presence, but that sense of 'opposites attract' wasn't easy to feel from the audience.

Persuasion includes some wonderful moments where gender differences are debated in a way that still feels quite relevant. The Metro Theatre production takes on many challenges, and is well worth your time if you already know and enjoy Austen's works. If you’re new to Jane Austen, start with some BBC before diving into this play.

-Blake Hepburn