It's early 19th century England, and the Bennet sisters are trying to balance love and looming poverty amid an unforgiving caste system.

Yet, despite the circumstances, there is a happy ending.

"Pride and Prejudice," Jane Austen's enduring romance novel, will be performed by Actors' Theatre of Columbus through July 16 in Schiller Park.

The story is told by Elizabeth Bennet (played by Elizabeth Harelik), the second-oldest daughter.

Their father, Mr. Bennet, owns Longbourn estate, but because of laws at the time, the girls cannot inherit the property.

So, pressure is on for the daughters to marry, but because they are not from a wealthy family their options are limited.

Harelik said women of the era essentially had to marry to survive because they didn't work and often didn't have money of their own.

Elizabeth Bennet, meanwhile, has to overcome her own harsh judgments and evolves through self-reflection, Harelik said.

"I would say there are a lot of hurdles these characters have to get over," she said.

"But the way it happens, the way they find their ultimate happy endings, is fun to watch and charming and leaves you with a warm feeling."

"Pride and Prejudice" will begin at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays at the park. It is Actors' Theatre's second play of the season which has the theme Privilege & Power. All performances are free and open to the public.

Philip J. Hickman, artistic director for the German Village-based acting troupe, said "Pride and Prejudice," published in 1813, is a "wonderfully crafted" romantic story and has a well-earned place in literary history.

"I think that one of the things that makes it really appealing is the fact that, through the course of the story, you do see that in the end who you are matters more in your relationship, more than what you have in terms of your social standing.

"I think that's something we all want to be true."

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary