Manitoba·★★★★★ Review

Promise and Promiscuity: A New Musical by Jane Austen and Penny Ashton

FIVE STARS It’s difficult to tell where Austen ends and Ashton begins in her delightful solo show.

FIVE STARS | It’s difficult to tell where Austen ends and Ashton begins in this delightful show

Penny Ashton performs in Promise and Promiscuity at the 2016 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. (Penny Ashton)

Rating: ★★★★★

(Reviewed at the 2014 Winnipeg Fringe Festival)

Company: Penash Productions, Auckland

Genre: Play — Comedy

Venue: 24 — WECC Ventura Hall

Purchase Tickets

I mean it as a compliment when I say it can be difficult to tell where Jane Austen ends and Penny Ashton begins in her delightful solo show (a returning hit from the 2013 and 2014 Winnipeg Fringe).

Her gentle parody captures Austenisms perfectly. There's the the plucky heroine, the dashing suitor, the undesirable suitor, the family in distress, the snobbish elites, and the (spoiler, but no-not-really-spoiler alert) happy ending. To which Ashton (and songwriter Robbie Ellis) add tunes, including a Beethoven/Bon Jovi mash-up that's one of the show's highlights.

It's difficult to tell where Austen ends and Ashton begins in her delightful solo show.- Joff Schmidt

There's plenty of clever wordplay and comic characterizations. And yes, there are also corny jokes, shamelessly pandering local references, and slightly groan-y topical nods (our protagonist, Elspeth, is the secret novelist behind the hit pirate adventure "50 Shades of Arrr"). But Ashton delivers it all with such good-natured charm that it's impossible not to be won over by it. Plus, there's a genuine point to be made in looking back at Austen's heroines on how far we have — and haven't — come in the last two centuries in regards to gender equity.

But first and foremost, Ashton's play is — like an Austen novel — about a good story well told. And that, dear reader, is why I suggest you see it.

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