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'Pride & Prejudice' hits the stage April 26-28

Written in 1813, Jane Austin's "Pride and Prejudice" was the first romantic comedy. The one all other romantic comedies -- like "You've Got Mail," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Knotting Hill," to name a few -- have patterned themselves after.

Detroit Lakes Public Schools is performing its rendition of the classic tale April 26-28 at 7:30 p.m. in the middle school's George Simson Auditorium.

Director Mark Everson said the play is based on the novel, but they pulled some things from the recent Keira Knightley movie by the same title.

"Two people diametrically different but can't stay away from each other," Everson described the plot line. "There's no way they should be together but the end up falling for each other."

The goal of the Bennet parents is to marry their three daughters into higher society. Their middle daughter, Elizabeth, "doesn't buy into" the whole theory. Until she gets to know Mr. Darcy that is.

"That's our plot, how to set these two up together," he said.

Of course with any comedy, there are misunderstandings throughout. No. 1 being not knowing the real person that "fans their love for each other."

Everson said although this is a comedy, the romance brings more of a language-based humor rather than just physical comedy. And that language-base is filled with a British accent.

"They've done an outstanding job," Everson said of his cast. "I've had to pull some back from sounding too British."

"I struggle with keeping it the whole time, but I've gotten better," said Chelsea Lessin. "I find myself talking more properly," she added, saying 'surely' finds its way into her conversations now.

"The goal is to make the audience buy into the characters and what it's like to be them," Everson said.

The two main characters bringing the audience in are Mr. Darcy, played by Alex Renner, and Elizabeth Bennet, played by Lessin.

"He's very rich, comes from English nobility and is not socially gifted," Renner describes his character. He adds that Mr. Darcy comes off as snobbish but ends up falling in love with Elizabeth in the end.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, "is very sure of herself. She doesn't like to take advice from men. She's smart," Lessin said of her character.

This year's cast is much larger than the usual spring groups, but that hasn't been a problem of any kind.

"They've been a phenomenal cast," Everson said. "The talent level is deep, deep, deep. They take direction well, a really mature cast."

Some of the supporting cast includes Jane Bennet, played by Phylicia Johnson. "She's very sweet, gets along with everybody and gives everybody the benefit of the doubt," she said.

Chris Damlo plays Chris Bingley, who's "happy and outward but a little shy," he said. He falls head over heels for Jane, he added.

Marty Fankhanel plays the father, Mr. Bennet. "He's a really sarcastic character," he described. He loves his daughters and doesn't want any disturbance like some men trying to marry his daughter. "He's protective."

Grant Remmen plays Mr. Collins, the "comic relief of the show. He's a pompous character and thinks he's very funny." Although Collins likes Elizabeth, she thinks differently.

"It's a fun part to play," Remmen said. "I hope to give the audience a lot of laughs."

Paige Johnson plays mother, Mrs. Bennet. "She wants what's best for her daughters but that doesn't always show."

Thressa Johnson plays Lydia Bennet, the youngest of the three sisters. "She's flighty and utterly boy crazy. She wants to think highly of herself and goes for anything in uniform."

Paige Johnson said the hardest part for her has been the memorization of lines because it's the biggest part she has had. Thressa Johnson hasn't found many obstacles in her character.

"I love my character. It's easy to get into character," she said.

The challenge of this play is becoming the character and having the audience feel the romance is genuine. Everson said the cast has done a good job of coming up with hints of their character and conveying that connection.

"Insight is tough for any actor. They've worked very hard for that," he said.

Lessin said it's been tough playing Elizabeth because of the romantic comedy having to be the right mixture of funny and serious. She has to make sure the character is likable and be funny and serious at the same time.

Renner said the high expectations coming from the audience from just seeing the Hollywood version may be tough to overcome. Although, he said he hopes the audience will see the "acting technique, special reaction making it real, really believable."

"I hope they enjoy it," Lessin said of the audience.

"Realizing 'whoa, that's what it's like to be in love,'" Renner said he hopes from the audience's reaction.