Quote of the Day: I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing other than a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.
Although, I completely agree with the above statement, I’d have to argue that attending theater also ranks among my greatest enjoyment. And, how thrilling, that the playwrights for Miss Bennet combine my two loves into a charming holiday play that extends the story of the Bennet sisters, their beaus and bonds. Miss Bennet Christmas at Pemberley is the first in the trilogy by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, a spin-off from Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice. I saw it first at The Jungle Theater in 2017 and fell in love with it. The playwrights give Mary a story, let her passions shine, and give her a beau who understands her love of books, maps, and music.
Mary Bennet (Elizabeth Efteland) finally has her moment to shine in Miss Bennet. She still passes her time at the piano or with her nose in a book, enthusiastically sharing the plot line with anyone who will listen. (Mary Bennet and I have much in common.) The Bennets are spending the holidays with the Darcy’s. Elizabeth Darcy (Maureen O’Malley) has brought an evergreen tree into the house, causing much confusion and comment from everyone, including her husband Fitzwilliam (Ben Qualley). Jane Bingley (Gillian Constable) and her husband Charles (Noah Hynick) are also there, and they are expecting their first child. Lydia (Siri Wright) bops in, filled with funny lines and comedic quips, but without her husband, Mr. Wickham. Darcy’s cousin, Arthur de Bourgh (Scott Laban) arrives and immediately connects with Mary over books and maps. They have wonderful moments of happy chatter about their common interests, and equally awkward moments as they start to realize that they like each other. Lydia finds a way to meddle and get the romance rolling. Cousin Anne de Bourgh (Katrina Stelk) shows up with statements that throw ice water on the whole affair. Once jilted, twice shy, she’s not about to be left out in the cold this time.
Playwrights Gunderson and Melcon have great wit and insight into these characters. It’s fan-fiction at its best. They include all the beloved characters from Austen’s popular novel and add in a few more to make the story more interesting, and give some lesser known characters a little excitement. I adore this script and would be happy to watch it, or its sequel The Wickhams, or the third installment Georgiana & Kitty (now playing at The Jungle Theater) every year. It would be fun if all three were playing somewhere in the area next holiday season (hint, hint).
The set that Greg Vanselow and Victoria Clawson designed is stunning. In a thrust style stage, you feel like you’ve entered the home of the Darcy’s, complete with vintage furniture, a lovely grand piano, and floor to ceiling bookshelves, with a Christmas Tree as the focal point. No wonder Mary was in her glory! The costumes, designed by Samantha Fromm Haddow, are absolutely gorgeous. The men are mostly in fine suits, and the ladies wear layers, interchanging them for various scenes, and ending with lovely overlays in holiday glitter and glamor for the final scene. (I want one.) Lighting Design by Kurt Jung adds to the atmosphere, and Sound Design by Katie Korpi. Music is an integral part of the play, as Mary plays the piano to process her emotions. Music Consultant is Ben Emory Larson.
Elena Giannetti directs this wonderful holiday show. The entire cast is strong, giving such personality to each of their characters. Elizabeth Efteland as Mary and Scott Laban as Arthur have lovely exchanges and play off each other so well. Siri Wright as the mischievous Lydia is delightful. Katrina Stelk comes in with just the right amount of haughty and hurt as the jilted Anne de Bourgh. I loved watching the interplay between the sisters, and the brotherly bond that the guys share over cigars and cognac. The servants double as props and set movers enter in costume and character, adding to the charming atmosphere of this play.
You can see Miss Bennet Christmas at Pemberley at Lyric Arts in Anoka, MN through December 18, 2022. I could easily make these shows a holiday tradition.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Do you cut down a live tree, put up a fake one, or do other types of decorating for the holiday season?