REVIEWS

Pride and Prejudice:

"the stuff hits are made of... the ever-ingenious Ms. Hamill has given us something completely and delightfully different, a smallish-cast period-dress Pride and Prejudice that she’s done over in the revved-up manner of a Hollywood screwball comedy. The language is traditional but the approach is thoroughly modern, with six of the eight actors playing multiple roles, several of them in drag. Cleverly compressed... and adapted with fizzy, festive freedom, Ms. Hamill’s “P&P” is full of “Bringing Up Baby”-style slapstick and the kind of barely controlled chaos that you’d expect to see in a five-door Feydeau farce...  In addition to having written the script, Ms. Hamill plays Lizzy Bennet with winning impishness...  If you can’t make it to Hudson Valley, Ms. Dehnert’s production will be transferring to New York’s Primary Stages in November. I can’t imagine that it will stop there: Like Vanity Fair before it, Ms. Hamill’s Pride and Prejudice is the kind of show that would flourish in a small Broadway house. Should P&P fail to receive the commercial production it deserves, you can bet that it’ll be the toast of the regional-theater circuit. " - Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal

Photo by Nicole Fara Silver, NY Times

Photo by Nicole Fara Silver, NY Times

"This PRIDE & PREJUDICE is unlike any adaption of the Jane Austen classic one has seen before.  Playwright Kate Hamill, who inventively adapted Austen’s SENSE & SENSIBILITY for Bedlam and most recently Thackeray’s VANITY FAIR at the Pearl, is at it again more riotously, more ingeniously than before.  With a rollicking, witty, smart, thoroughly entertaining PRIDE & PREJUDICE  in its premier production at  the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival,  Ms Hamill serves her best work yet, and provides the best summer theater fare anywhere,  Upstate, Berkshires - Manhattan, too, for that matter.  Ms. Hamill... doesn’t “cut and paste” novel to script: her adaptations, as with P&P, are about three-quarters her own, a bubbling, contemporized mix of period dialogue and modern idiom. ... But beneath P&P’s laughs, there’s a core, more delicate sensibility - a wry, keen awareness that regards, with squinted eye, people warts and all.  This P&P is blissful mirth- a special potion of affectionate, bemused cynicism and realistic optimism about human nature,  the kind articulated by perhaps the best screenwriter (and director) of  all, Billy Wilder. Miss Austen meet Mr. Wilder.  Correction: Mr. Wilder meet Ms. Hamill." - The Berkshire Edge

"Hamill is a guerrilla Austenista, with an approach to the canon more audaciously irreverent than most of us have encountered before...she goes for full-blown farce that tears the social conventions of the landed gentry to hysterical shreds. Amazingly, deliciously, it all works... The audience on Opening Night ate it all up with a big spoon and a lengthy standing ovation at the finale.... It’s loads of fun, put on with both great professionalism and refreshing, zany zest." - Hudson Valley One

Vanity Fair

"a masterpiece of creative compression... I’m suspicious as a rule of stage versions of classic novels, which are in most cases pointless attempts to “repurpose” a beloved book for purposes of profit. But Ms. Hamill’s “Vanity Fair,” which is being performed to coruscatingly brilliant effect by the Pearl Theatre Company, is something else again, a masterpiece of creative compression that is at once arrestingly original and faithful to its source material, and I’ll be flummoxed if it isn’t at least as big a hit as “Sense and Sensibility... [it's] a dead-serious romp whose implicit feminism has been given a sharper point by Ms. Hamill Ms. Hamill’s Becky is a saucy, spunky schemer who, as the Victorians liked to say, is no better than she has to be.... It’s a cinch that “Vanity Fair” will soon be taken up by regional theaters across the U.S. I think, however, that it merits a more ambitious fate. Mr. Tucker’s production really ought to transfer to Broadway, where it would appeal to the same audience that kept “The 39 Steps” running for 771 profitable performances. Should any commercial producers read this review, take it from me: “Vanity Fair” is another cash cow waiting to be milked." - Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal

"I love Becky Sharp. She is cunning, devious and almost entirely unprincipled. She manipulates her friends and mistreats her child. Get to know her in Vanity Fair, Kate Hamill’s adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1848 novel... this show, like Sense and Sensibility, is a gift to actors and a goody bag for its audience. An elfin brunette, Ms. Hamill pursues Becky’s wickedness with delight and without apology, which is to say she’s good at being bad... This play provides a rare thing — a female character who behaves just as badly as the male ones without being reformed or punished... “Vanity Fair” is a nasty tale and Becky is a nasty woman. Good for her." - New York Times

"Kate Hamill had a remarkable and deserved success adapting Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility for Bedlam and she’s done it again here. Hamill stars as Becky and positively relishes the role of a woman who refuses to be judged. The seven member cast brings alive a dozen or so characters (it seems), all of it fluidly directed by Eric Tucker of Bedlam (who also directed Sense and Sensibility so brilliantly). All are excellent, though special mention must be made of HamillThe direction, the acting, the tech elements all work in concert but above all it’s the canny script of Hamill that shines. She captures the sweep of the novel and its many ideas with spot-on choices. That begins with setting this vanity-fair of life’s temptations at an actual seaside fair full of sideshows and freaks and people ready to pick your pocket or laugh at your despair. Even better, Hamill makes great use of the stage to parallel the story of Becky and Amelia again and again, making Thackeray’s point of not judging even better than he did... why play it safe? At the very least you’ll be assured of having fun. Playwright and star Hamill hasn’t and the result here is another success. Her upcoming adaptation of Pride & Prejudice in November can’t come soon enough." - Huffington Post

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"Hamill’s massive editing and adaptation of Thackeray work, ultimately, becomes two hours and fifteen minutes of stage time. By comparison Nicholas Nickleby, in 1980, involved two 4.5 hour performances to portray Dickens.  Both are exemplars of cutting-edge theatre of their times... the leading character, Becky Sharp, doesn’t “blush” (Hamill plays her unabashedly, with brio)... " - Stage Voices

"scandalous, relentless and heartbreaking... bound to impress even the most loyal of Thackeray fans... a production that is bound to capture your attention. Adapted for the stage by Kate Hamill (who also plays our heroine Becky Sharp) and directed by Eric TuckerVanity Fair has a little bit of everything to make it one of the most intriguing adaptations of a novel I have ever seen... Becky is such a fascinating character, and watching Kate Hamill in this role was such a pleasure... her dedication to it is phenomenal ...  this adaption brings the essence of the novel in all its glory to the stage.. a great production." - BroadwayWorld

"William Thackeray’s 19th-century satire about female empowerment and high society manners gets a hilarious 21st-century makeover.... Hamill is pitch-perfect as the feisty and flinty heroine, a woman who’s often unlikable as she strives for a better hand than the one she was dealt. Hamill makes her relatable, playing Becky as someone mostly worthy of our sympathies and our encouragement. She’s funny, a master strategist, and determined. And she never asks for pity as she seeks to achieve what others were born into and what a man would be able to do without question or condemnation...  If the idea of reading Thackeray's 600+-page novel sounds impossibly daunting, you will be well served catching Hamill’s fresh, fast-paced, and wildly entertaining take." - Theatre is Easy 

"Imaginative, smart, with feminist edge... enjoyable, imaginative, thoroughly dramatic... Written by Kate Hamill, whose earlier adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility made me a fan, Vanity Fair, also starring Hamill, is a show of great charm, with a sharpened feminist edge and a lively sense of contemporary relevance... It is a play that warns against judging others—a particularly apt cautionary tale in our age of shaming." - Philadelphia Inquirer

"If you missed playwright Kate Hamill’s and director Eric Tucker’s joyous SENSE & SENSIBILITY at Bedlam, you can atone – and deliriously – with their new collaboration VANITY FAIR at The Pearl Theatre. Ms. Hamill, among Off-Broadway’s most intelligent young playwrights... and Mr. Tucker, among its most inventive directors, team up again... Remarkably Thackeray’s words are seldom heard: Ms. Hamill reckons 70-80% of the dialogue is hers.  The (in)famous Becky Sharp (played with pitch-perfect piss-and vinegar by Ms. Hamill herself), lowborn of no legacy portfolio, leaves finishing school with her best friend Amelia... Hamill perceives the ups and downs of the women’s fortunes as a dual story: Becky’s tale can’t be told without Amelia’s and vice versa - Madonna and the whore. Hamill plumbs incisively the multiple themes in Thackeray’s satire: social class, ambition, hypocrisy, gender, ethics, unifying them with the central premise, “there are no morals here.”  Cleverly, Hamill eschews the puppet show motif through which Thackeray frames his tale. Instead she creates a manager (think Our Town, or even the emcee in Cabaret), solidly played by Zachary Fine. VANITY FAIR is an exemplar of making the literary theatrical. I’ll go even further and declare that VANITY FAIR is what theatre is all about..." - WHDD

Sense and Sensibility

"First presented for a short run in repertory in 2014, this enchanting romp of a play has returned on its own... with its buoyant spirits, cunning stagecraft and enlivening insights intact... Marianne (a delightfully volatile Ms. Hamill), [is] the determined romantic... Even more than Ang Lee’s fine 1995 film of “Sense and Sensibility,” this version captures the vertiginous apprehensions that lie within a seemingly quiet novel about the rewards of resignation... irresistible theater." - Ben Brantley, NY Times (2x Critic's Pick.)

  • Original review from Ben Brantley (Sense and Sensibility 2014) herenamed in his top 10 Plays of 2014.

"As the younger Marianne, Ms. Hamill (yes, our inventive playwright) exists in an entertaining state of feverish animation... invigorating stage version of Jane Austen’s 'Sense and Sensibility,'.... The would-be and might-have-been lovers in this enchantingly athletic take on the perils of Austen-style courtship, adapted by Kate Hamill and directed by Eric Tucker, find themselves pushed and pulled by the forces of speculation run rampant. The classic Austen preoccupations with real estate, income, class, reputation and equilibrium in life are all rendered brightly and legibly here."

"Though a favorite of moviemakers in recent years (starting with Ang Lee’s sleeper hit 'Sense and Sensibility' in 1995), Austen’s novels have never lent themselves naturally to the stage, even as drawing-room comedies. Their introspective heroines and sotto voce tone seem to call for the searching close-ups of cinema. Ms. Hamill and Mr. Tucker have sidestepped the problem by transposing Austen into the key of Dickens. Theirs is a bouncy, jaunty take on Austen, with a 10-member cast taking on an assortment of roles that are always clearly defined, sometimes as graphically as caricatures by the Dickens illustrator Phiz... remains remarkably true to the values and priorities of its source."

"[Hamill] plays Marianne with Carole Lombard-like abandon..." - Huffington Post

Photo credit, Sara Krulwich (NY Times)

Photo credit, Sara Krulwich (NY Times)

"I go to a lot of theatre in New York where I live and this is one of the best things I’ve ever seen here - one of the best things I've ever seen onstage. Save your Hamilton dollars and go see it." Ira Glass in the Guardian and Washington Post: links here and here.

"Bedlam  has remained true to Austen's spirit in Kate Hamill's marvelous adaptation of Sense and Sensibility... this hysterical, endlessly inventive production [is] s one of the funniest, most engaging productions now running off-Broadway... Hamill, who wrote the loose adaptation, gives a delightfully passionate Marianne, a pitch-perfect foil to Nichols' level-headed, silently suffering Elinor. It's hard not to lose one's senses in this kind of theatrical stage magic." - TheaterMania

..  without question one of the best pieces of theatre in Manhattan and assuredly one of the best stage adaptations of Austen’s classic tale...  Kate Hamill’s Marianne Dashwood knows no boundaries or limits to her emotional and spiritual dynamism... transformative theatre, groundbreaking theatre, immersive theatre, theatre not to be missed." - OnStage

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"a rip-roaring joyride... lovingly and skillfully adapted by Kate Hamill, who also beautifully plays the impassioned Marianne Dashwood..." - TheaterPizzazz

"Sense and Sensibility', newly and skillfully dramatized by Bedlam’s Kate Hamill, merits far more attention than I can give it here. Suffice it to say that while Ms. Hamill has left the novel’s early-19th-century setting (and diction) intact, she and Mr. Tucker have steered clear of PBS-style costume-shop gentility, instead giving us a version so full of galloping comic vitality as to suggest a bunch of stupendously clever kids playing dress-up in the nursery. It’s by far the smartest Jane Austen adaptation to come along since Amy Heckerling’s 'Clueless,' and at least as much fun." - Wall Street Journal

"Hamill, who’s done a bang-up job with the script, lands on Marianne’s relative immaturity and near petulance without slipping into childishness... The production also manages to capture swells of intense feeling — like heartbreak and betrayal — by doing a lot with very little. That's the mark of a great writer." - Towleroad

"Goofy, joyous, and deeply moving... highly engaging and imaginative... Adapted by Kate Hamill, the show puts a premium on clever and vivid storytelling. But this “Sense & Sensibility” stays faithful to its source through all the cheekiness." - NY Daily News

"Kate Hamill's Marianne is a passionate, literary harpy that breaks through the vessels and into your heart." - NY Theater Guide

"...Kate Hamill’s excellent adaptation of Jane Austen and performance as Marianne fits my sense of the proper sensibility of this troupe as a whole: innovative and entertaining comedy." - LitroNY

The Seagull

"... the cast's brilliant, sometimes fiery performances give the play an added emotional intensity." (TheaterMania)

“A remarkable bit of stage alchemy... the piece achieves a formidable emotional intensity. While you would expect the artifice of acting to be more visible under such close scrutiny, the cast of ten succeeds in revealing deep, non-artificial truths.” (The New Yorker)

", the acting of the entire troupe is strong, whether pretending to be surrounded by an invisible pack of dogs, playing both sides of a dinner table conversation in sequence or rendered speechless by an unspeakably pretentious dramatization..." (LitroNY)

Terry Teachout of the WSJ: one of the two best classical productions of 2014; also calls S&S "ingenious".