Dearest Cast of "Pride and Prejudice,"

I wish to convey my appreciation for your kind hospitality this weekend at West Potomac. I had a lovely stay; your home was quite enchanting. I daresay the little adornments your family has collected are some of the most charming I have seen. I believe you mentioned your designer's name was Katie Multop? I must steal her away to redo my house; she truly possesses an eye for detail and balance.

Your family does make such an exquisite picture moving about your home. Everyone seemed comfortable and at ease. Am I right to conjecture that you have lived there some time?

I must confess, during my visit your energy was low, even though the conversation was bright, and the weekend was less humorous than expected. I must also say that at times I observed some odd behaviors: Several ladies crossed their legs in a perfectly scandalous manner, visitors drank from obviously empty cups, and I witnessed one young lady write a rather long letter without once dipping her quill!

I must thank you for your introductions. I was particularly taken with Colonel Guy Fitzwilliam (Shawn Garrett). He carries himself grandly; one can scarcely be near him without feeling his jovial, human charm. His voice, too, reveals he knows how to conduct himself. He is quite distinguished, especially for a young soldier. I only wish I had had the pleasure of his company longer.

All of your gentlemen were pleasant: Mr. Bennet (Daniel Carmichael), Mr. Darcy (Christopher Baidoo) and Mr. Collins (Matt Klein) conducted themselves beautifully. Each connected with those around him and focused keenly on the conversation. Even your manservant, Hill (Eric Price), behaved a gentleman.

Finally, I wish to offer my congratulations on Miss Jane Bennet's (Ashley Young) engagement to Mr. Bingley (Matthew Beltz). The pair have such an affection for one another, I hope their marriage is as tender as their courtship. Watching the couple was one of the most pleasant entertainments I encountered on my most pleasant sojourn to your little estate.

Most sincerely yours,

Eleanor Keyser

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

P.S. What, in heaven, does this new word "yeah" mean?

Nineteenth century stuffiness filled the Springbank Arts Center the minute the house lights went down for the opening scene of "Pride and Prejudice." This complete period piece, staged recently at West Potomac High School, included wonderful handmade costumes and a breathtaking set that transported the audience back to the rural English countryside of 1805.

For the most part, the cast delivered the Jane Austen adaptation fairly well, in particular, their accurate portrayal of the attitudes of the time. A few actors disappointed, however, with minor breaks in posture and diction.

Some of the most memorable characters included a very comical Mr. Collins (Matt Klein), whose stage presence was wonderful, and Mr. Darcy (Christopher Baidoo), whose ego was palpable from the moment he entered. Others of note included Mrs. Bennet (April Brown) and the delightful Hill (Eric Price), who almost stole his scenes.

The highlight, though, was the set and direction. Most of the action occurred in the Bennet family's home, with a few scenes set in different cities. The attention to detail on the set was remarkable: in every scene, the door leading offstage had a decorated background that effectively masked the wings and, more importantly, extended the world of the play.

The direction of the show was masterful, with numerous stage pictures portraying the sense and sensibilities of the period.

A few of the characters could have used a boost in energy: Their lack of emotion and chemistry sometimes meant that words and meanings were lost. However, the show succeeded overall because of the beauty of the many moments when everything worked wonderfully, rekindling Austen's sparkling classic.

Matt Napolitano

Chantilly High School

CAPTION: West Potomac High had two casts for its productions of "Pride and Prejudice." In this rehearsal, Katie Carmichael, left, playing Miss Bingley makes conversation with Victoria Freed, playing Elizabeth Bennet. Brendan Bradley, in the role of Mr. Darcy, waits in the background.

STUDENT THEATER REVIEW

During the 1999-2000 school year, the Weekly section will publish occasional reviews of high school theatrical performances in Northern Virginia, written by students from other schools under the guidance of professional mentors.

The reviews are part of the new High School Critics and Awards Program ("Cappies"), which aims to recognize the achievements of young performers, writers, directors, stage crew and critics. The program is co-sponsored by the Capitol Steps comedy troupe and the NVTA (formerly the Northern Virginia Theatre Alliance), a coalition of three dozen artistic production companies from throughout the metropolitan area.

Sixteen high schools are participating in the program this school year, and each has designated one performance for critical review. In the spring, the program will hand out its first Cappies, the high school equivalent of a Tony award, to honor outstanding local talent in theater, dance and music. For more information about the Cappies, check out the program's new Web site: www.cappies.com.

Today our student reviewers offer a critique of "Pride and Prejudice," based on Jane Austen's 1813 classic about the intrigues of the daughter-blessed Bennet family. "Pride and Prejudice" was staged recently at West Potomac High School in Fairfax County.

The Weekly is publishing a list of upcoming high school productions. Any area high school--not just those in the Cappies program--may submit a listing by e-mailing us at schoolplays@ washpost.com.

Please include the name of the production, the school where it will be performed, the date or dates and a phone number for additional information.

CURTAIN CALLS

TONIGHT THROUGH SATURDAY:

* "Camelot," H-B Woodlawn Program, Arlington, 703-228-6362.

TUESDAY:

* Winter Concert & "Hallelujah Chorus," Fairfax High, 703-219-2355.

DEC. 16-18:

* Disney Holiday Spectacular, South Lakes High, 703-715-4589.

DEC. 20-21:

* "A Christmas Carol," Chantilly High, 703-222-8100.