Review | Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley: a delight

The Jungle Theater, through December 30

The Ensemble in MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY. Photo by Dan Norman.

At the end of Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley (at the Jungle) director Christina Baldwin brings the cast together for a final smiling pose. Playing underneath, appropriately, is Beethoven‘s Ode To Joy. That’s what Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley is about: joy, the warmth of familial love, the easy companionship of a happy marriage. Passion. Books. It’s snowing outside, but at Pemberley sweetness obtains.

Baldwin directs with laudable sensitivity and also with a rollicking and zippy pace. Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley moves right along.

And it’s really funny: “Egad!” one of the characters exclaims, “there’s a tree in the house!” “It’s a German custom,” Elizabeth explains. “Oh.” Or Arthur de Bourgh’s stumbling squirellishness; guaranteed to make you giggle. Or Mary Bennet’s pianoforte pounding passion. Wonderful.

Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley is based on Jane Austen‘s much-loved Pride And Prejudice. 4 of the 5 Bennet sisters have gathered to celebrate Christmas. Kitty is absent and ditto the busybodies Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Authors Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon have wisely let Austen do a lot of their character development. Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley may lack an Austenian substance of character, but who cares. This is a smart and happy production. I enjoyed it. You will, too.

The cast is led by the ever-sturdy Sun Mee Chomet, whose cheerfully impeccable comic timing animates and drives the play. As Mary Bennet, the only unmarried Bennet sister, Christian Bardin effectively combines bookishness and passion; I’ll never hear “The Moonlight Sonata” again without thinking of her performance. Lydia’s (the terrific Kelsey Didion)… What would you call it? Her spasticity, maybe. Whatever it is, she’s a scream and a half. James Rodríguez as the stalwart Fitzwilliam Darcy thrills, as does Anna Hickey as the desperate Anne de Bourgh. It’s a case of a plot event that we know won’t happen. Still, we laugh while waiting for the inevitable shoe to drop.

Then there’s Jucoby Johnson as Arthur de Bourgh. At first I asked myself: is he going to fall over the furniture throughout the play? By the time the answer became clear – yes, he is – I no longer cared. Arthur is a young man who has recently had a shock. He is struggling to make sense of his new life. Johnson plays this perfectly. Bravo.

Every theater on the planet is offering a Christmas show; this is the one to see.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book, Tell Me A Story In The Dark, about the magic of bedtime stories, has been published. His Anna May Wong bioplay, How The Ghost Of You Clings, will be presented by the Playwrights Center as part of the 2018 Ruth Easton Festival. Please visit John’s informational website.

 

 

How Was the Show for You?

Your email address will not be published.