Quote of the Day: Although men still write three-quarters of the plays that get produced, Gunderson has built a national reputation with works that center on women’s stories. And, though most playwrights also teach or work in television, she has managed to make a living, in San Francisco, by writing for the stage. found on the website for Lauren Gunderson (the most produced playwright in America) in an article titled “You’ve Probably Never Heard of America’s Most Popular Playwright” by Daniel Pollack-Pelzner in The New Yorker magazine. However, I suspect, if you’ve been paying attention, you have heard of Lauren Gunderson and seen some of her popular plays like Silent Sky, I and You, The Revolutionists, and any of the three Christmas at Pemberley plays, which I have reviewed here on Play off the Page.
I love the Christmas at Pemberley plays and will see them whenever I can during the holiday season. They’re witty, clever, filled with familiar, and sometimes new, characters, and have stand-alone stories that even a novice to Jane Austen’s famous Bennet sisters and the beaus can enjoy. I brought my housemate Kyara to her first Pemberley, and she loved it. She wrote, “As someone who is uneducated in the Jane Austen field, I still really enjoyed the show! The actors all did an amazing job. It was humorous and wholesome.” She said she had no problem following the story and understood how all the characters were connected. Yay! She quizzed me on the original story, but I didn’t have my P&P aficionado Joanna with me, and felt inadequate in my summary. I enjoy P&P, but I’m not a true Austenite! I’ve only watched the Colin Firth portrayal of Mr. Darcy once.
In The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley, written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, we get the downstairs story. The set is a rustic kitchen with a kettle hung over the fireplace, a long wooden table, and a passageway that you can see through the windows. Designed by Greg Vanselow, it is reminiscent of Downton Abbey’s kitchen and servant’s quarters. It’s their story, too, and a place of refuge for a bedraggled Mr. Darcy (Ben Qualley) and a disillusioned Lydia (Grace Klapak). Her marriage to George Wickham (Felipe Escudero) isn’t what she dreamed it would be. Her sister Elizabeth (Eva Gemlo) knows something is up, but it takes a bit of sleuthing, and a discovered note, to unravel the true dilemma.
In this story, we have Mrs. Reynolds (Kayla Hambek) who runs the kitchen and household trying to keep it running smoothly despite the heightened emotions happening during the holidays. She has a motherly affection for the wayward Wickham, but she can’t save him from himself and his flaws. Brian (Michael Quadrozzi) is the buildings and grounds keeper, hauling in the Christmas tree, overhearing gossip, and falling for the new maid Cassie (Nadia Franzen).
Marci Lucht directs this delightful production of The Wickhams at Lyric Arts. The cast is absolutely charming and hilarious. The have such wonderful rapport. The gorgeous costumes are by Christy Branham and Jessica Moore. Lighting design by Shannon Elliott, and Sound design by Katie Korpi. Music Direction by Nadia Franzen. They sprinkle in a bit of music throughout the performance, adding to the festive feel.
You can see The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley at Lyric Arts in Anoka, MN through Dec. 22, 2023. We appreciated that they offered an ASL interpreted performance, making this play accessible to more audience members.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Do you put up a Christmas tree? Real or artificial? Write about special holiday ornaments or decorations.