Justly Proud 

Getting back into the role of Elizabeth Bennet, the bright, rapier-tongued heroine of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, wasn't easy for Jade Hobbs. The University of Memphis theater major received glowing reviews when she first took on the role last spring, thrilling sold-out crowds at Theatre Memphis.

The show, which originally rehearsed for six weeks, was remounted in only two, and Hobbs says it was a nerve-wracking fortnight.

"There are 93 pages of lines ... and all the choreographed entrances," she says, sounding exhausted. "And I'm sad to say that I was the only one who seemed to have a hard time getting back into things." But everything eventually came back, and Pride and Prejudice 2.0 launched last week to the delight of audiences that hadn't been able to get a ticket to the first run of this surprise smash.

What's so special about TM's interpretation of Austen's 19th-century comedy about a middle-class family trying to get all of the daughters properly married? Pairing John Rone's scholarly direction with Bill Short's elegantly open design work doesn't hurt. The cast is uniformly excellent, with standout performances by Hobbs, Steven Brown, and Jason Spitzer, whose comically creepy interpretation of Mr. Collins (one of Austen's most withering takes on the clergy) is one of the 2007-'08 theater season's best.

Hobbs was attracted by the opportunity to play such a strong woman. "Elizabeth is such a modern thinker," she says of the character that eschewed traditional notions about romance, money, and marriage.

"Pride and Prejudice" runs on Theatre Memphis' Next Stage through July 27th. Tickets are $23. Call 682-8323 for more information.

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