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Theater Review: “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley”

Performances are Thursday at 7:30 pm., Friday at 8 pm;  Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm
Photo credit:
Daren Scott

It’s dangerous business, having the chutzpah to take a beloved Jane Austen novel and imagine what happened after that.

Fortunately, that didn’t stop playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, who imagine “Pride and Prejudice” characters a few years later in their clever and engaging “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley,” which plays through Dec. 23 at New Village Arts.

You can stop reading now – and grab those tickets – or you can stick with me and I’ll tell you why I think it’s so good.

It’s 1815, and the former Bennet clan is gathering at Elizabeth and Darcy’s fancy digs for the holidays. Lizzy (Jessi Little) and Darcy (Timothy L. Cabal) are deliriously happy, and wonderful to watch.

Jane (Amara Young) is quite pregnant and happily awaiting her first child with solicitous husband and love of her life Bingley (Sittichai Chaiyahat).

Mary (Nadia Guevara), the oddball of the Bennet girls (and the one nearly ignored by Ms. Austen), spends most of her time in solitary intellectual pursuits like reading and finding out how things work. She would, she says, “rather marry an interesting plant than an idiot man.” Today she would be known as a geek.

Lydia (McKenna Foote), the youngest and most self-centered of the Bennet girls, is flirtatious, giddy, and unwilling to admit her sham marriage to Mr. Wickham, who did not accompany her to the family get-together.

Then there’s Arthur de Bourgh (Carter Piggee), as nerdily adorable as Mary. He’s just inherited a vast estate and doesn’t quite know what to do with it.

Finally, there’s Anne DeBourgh (Michelle Marie Trester), haughty, imperious and demanding, and what she wants is to marry Arthur (which would keep the estate in hands she could influence). She’s the type who can poison the jolly atmosphere of any party.

There’s a whole shtick about the Christmas tree Elizabeth has put up in the house – a new idea at the time, and the cause of much bewilderment and merry talk.

There’s confusion about notes left in books and who wrote what to whom, but this is Christmas, so not to worry about how it all works out.

Director Kristianne Kurner keeps the action moving nicely and also contributed the design for the handsome set. Elisa Benzoni designed the lovely costumes.

Guevara, spectacular as Mary, also seems to be actually playing some mean classical piano, though Nina Gilbert is credited with “some piano” as well. Lighting and sound are nicely done by Becky Goodman and Melanie Chen Cole.

It’s not often we get a new “Jane Austen” piece. Let’s hope the delightful “The Bennets: Christmas at Pemberley” becomes an annual tradition.

The details

“Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” runs through December 23, 2018 at New Village Arts, 2787 State Street in Carlsbad.

Performances are Thursday at 7:30 pm., Friday at 8 pm;  Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets:  (760) 433-3245 or newvillagearts.org