SALT LAKE CITY —  I am not an Austen lover, but it’s hard to not be exposed to her work. When the preshow announcement for The Grand Theatre’s production of Pride and Prejudice adapted by Utah playwright Melissa Leilani Larson said that a person who cannot enjoy a good play is “intolerably stupid,” I enjoyed the reference to the source material, but wouldn’t have known it without others to point it out.  However, it is a truth soon to be universally acknowledged that a person in possession of a ticket to this performance will find themselves thoroughly delighted, Austen devotee or not. 

The scenic design was both non-traditional and impressive. Designer Keven Myhre used a series of steps and levels in bright blue and gold with similar boxes and pieces that could be rolled on and off to suggest different locales. Above these levels hung silhouettes of characters or character groupings. One the cleverest uses of this space was the choice Myhre and lighting designer Paul Yeates used to shine lights on silhouettes when characters who were off stage or yet to be introduced were discussed. This, along with clear dialogue early and often in the play, allowed novice Austen enthusiasts to follow the plot with ease. The staging in the space was excellent and allowed the audience to infer elegant ballrooms, upper levels and the luxurious homes mentioned in the story. 

Grand Theatre ; SLC ; Pride and Prejudice ; 2024 ; Melissa Lelani Larson

Pride and Prejudice plays at The Grand Theatre through June 8 | PC: The Grand Theatre

What I didn’t expect from the show was to have it so fast paced. Not including intermission, the run time was under 135 minutes and didn’t even feel that long. The first act was considerably longer than the second, but it never felt drawn in the way so many adaptations of regency era pieces do. In addition to being quick paced, it was quick witted. Punchy lines were delivered with characters having strong singular objectives and pursuing them relentlessly. Director Mark Fossen worked with a strong cast to make the story lively and dynamic. I loved the way that characters often entered as they were mentioned to create no dead space. It was a crystal clear cohesion between playwright and theatre makers across the board. 

One of my favorite performances was Mary Bennett, played by Ellie Otis. Otis played Mary’s pious facade layered over romantic yearnings made even simple lines rich with subtext. Otis hilariously simpered after Collins at every turn and was distraught in ways that were both hysterical and heartbreaking. 

Similarly, Darrin Burnett’s Collins was excellent. Collins’ defining trait is his awkwardness. Burnett was able to play that exceptionally well through vocal tics and physical mannerisms that were played long enough to be fun without being uncomfortable or overdone. One of my favorite moments was when he is rejected by Lizzy and then composes himself and moves on. In that moment, Burnett made Collins more than a trope. He was a person with feelings, pride and his choice to move on after being spurned was cathartic. 

Grand Theatre ; SLC ; Pride and Prejudice ; 2024 ; Melissa Lelani Larson

PC: The Grand Theatre

The main pairs of lovers were exactly what one would hope for in the show. Lauren Pope emanated light and goodness as Jane and Alex Smith’s Bingley was just as virtuous. It was thrilling to watch them fall in love. They were confident and hopeful without being airheaded, and it was, again, lovely richness in the characters that elevated great directing and writing. The stars of the show shone brightest though.

Niki Rahimi played a dynamic, adventurous, and eventually humble Elizabeth. Rahimi was beyond incredible. Her Elizabeth went toe to toe with people of greater stature. She commanded the stage and whipped lines like daggers as she absolutely shredded people in ways that felt unfair. Rahimi took a powerhouse heroine and super charged her in her most important moments. Similarly, Gordon Dunn’s Fitzwilliam Darcy was a match for Colin Firth and any other iteration of the character. He was brusque and aloof without being surly. It was clear that he had serious misgivings about the Bennetts from the jump, and his monologue about loving Elizabeth in spite of himself felt honest. I know that’s odd, but it was a believable moment that someone could have deep love despite having a journal worthy list of reasons not to. 

Grand Theatre ; SLC ; Pride and Prejudice ; 2024 ; Melissa Lelani Larson

PC: The Grand Theatre

In her playwright’s note in the program, Larson wrote about the flawed nature of these characters. What I think I loved most about is that Rahimi and Dunn played the characters’ flaws to perfection. They struggled dramatically precisely because of their flaws, not in spite of them. It made them endearing and even more romantic when they loved each other through them. When the lovers finally come together, the silhouettes mentioned above lower to reveal a new pair of silhouette — that feature Darcy and Bingley, instead of alone, now in the arms of the women who have won them over. 

While I’m a sucker for a tragedy, this was a truly sweet romance that felt as sincere as any I’ve ever seen. Pride and Prejudice included lovely period dancing, finely polished accents, and crisp costumes that brought the peroid piece to life. The Grand produced as high quality a production of Pride and Prejudice as I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen many thanks to my lovely wife. If you can put your prejudice aside, you “must learn to be content with being happier than [you] deserve” with your evening spent in the company of such excellence on stage. Bravo. 

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE plays Thursdays through Saturdays June 8, 2024 at the Grand Theatre on the SLCC Campus (1575 S. State Street, SLC). Tickets are $28-35. For more information, visit

These reviews are made possible by a grant from the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks program.