AustenBlog’s Broadway Correspondent Peggy wrote to tell us that she was planning to attend the reading of a new stage play, The Notorious Lady Susan, adapted and directed by Tom Fontana for the Acting Company’s Salon Series, on April 12 in New York City. We asked her to send a report for the blog. –Ed.
I wanted to report back to you on the Lady Susan Salon Reading on Monday night (April 12). JASNA-NY had procured and made available a group of tickets, so there was a strong JASNA presence in the audience. We were welcomed in the program and the introductory remarks to the performance. I had no idea what to expect in this performance since I had a fairly limited knowledge of this particular work, but “The Acting Company” did a great job. Despite the bare set (only high stools and music stands for the performers) and the modern dress of the 7 actors/correspondents, the readings were rich enough to enable the audience to imagine the backdrops of fine country estates and gossipy London drawing rooms. What could have been a static reading of the book (read almost completely, with few editorial adaptations) was actually a wonderfully dramatic treatment of this epistolary text. The actors were able to interact directly in the parts of conversations alluded to in the correspondence; sometimes the actors moved their stools to demonstrate squabbles or emotional distance. The performers were really good (Lady Susan was perfectly manipulative and charming) and the production was wonderful. I am sure that having such a knowledgeable audience of Janeites (I mean this in the most complimentary and affectionate way) aided the performance as well – there were truly appreciative chuckles at the wit throughout. I am no expert, but this production enabled me to see Jane Austen’s growth from the influence of her literary antecedents (Samuel Richardson, etc.) to the fully formed dramatic voice in her later novels and I was glad I had the chance to see it.