Appreciate Jane Austin once again with ‘Mansfield Park’

Heidi Kettenring (Mrs. Norris) tells Kayla Cargter (Fanny Price) she can never say no at Mansfield Park while Kate Hamill (a maid) helps change Price's clothing. (Michael Brosilow photos)
Heidi Kettenring (Mrs. Norris) tells Kayla Cargter (Fanny Price) she can never say no at Mansfield Park while Kate Hamill (a maid) helps change Price’s clothing. (Michael Brosilow photos)

3 stars

Readers familiar with Jane Austen’s novels know this author sees through surface-only charm, social pretense and people who talk about manners but are not at all well-mannered.

These readers also know to expect thinly cloaked feminism about a century before the women’s rights movements were causing waves and making some progress in England and the United States.

But given Austen’s first two books, “Sense and Sensibility” in 1811 and “Pride and Prejudice” in 1813, audiences who see “Mansfield Park,” now at Northlight Theatre, will find in Austen’s third novel, out in 1814, that practicality no longer wins arguments. They will also note that one of “Mansfield Park’s theme stresses that financial benefit doesn’t excuse slavery.

“Mansfield Park’s heroine Fanny Price is portrayed to perfection by Kayla Carter. She convincingly takes her character from a young girl trying to adapt to her relative’s moneyed and mannered life when sent there as a servant and companion, to her metamorphosis as an independent young lady who does not succumb to pressure and who is willing to lead an impoverished life.

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