Review | The Wickhams: a holiday treat

The Jungle Theater, through December 30

The Ensemble in THE WICKHAMS. Photo by Rich Ryan.

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the Jane Austen fan in your life – and there are many – a night at the theater to see The Jungle Theater‘s production of The Wickhams is just the ticket. The Wickhams is a companion piece to Jungle’s previous holiday smash, The Bennetts, but if you weren’t able to see The Bennets, have no fear, The Wickhams stands on its own even though, surprisingly, the events in the two plays take place at the same time.

Written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, The Wickhams offers a rare glimpse at what life was like downstairs of the grand houses of the Regency period. It also gives Lydia Bennet, a character often considered silly and frivolous, a chance for a redeeming story to find her own voice and strength. Based on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the play follows some of Austen’s most beloved characters, Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, the scandalous Mr. Wickham and his new wife, Lydia Bennet.

The play opens up just a few days before Christmas in Pemberly, where Jane, played by Sun Mee Chomet and Darcy, played by James Rodriguez, are settling into their new lives as husband and wife. The house is abuzz with preparations for Christmas and the arrival of the Bennets including Lydia Wickham. Wickham himself is not invited to Pemberley, and the tension this causes is palpable from the first few scenes of the play.

But what really makes The Wickhams stand out from other Austen adaptions is that the play centers, mostly, around the staff of Pemberley and how they work tirelessly to prepare the house for Christmas while dealing with the drama of the upstairs guests and their own lives. Angela Timberman as the head housemaid Mrs. Reynolds is the voice of reason throughout the play and she carries the play with a perfect blend of sternness and warmth. Roshni Desai plays a newly hired maid, Cassie, who has longed to work for a house like Pemberly all her life. Cassie ends up a confidant to Lydia Bennet, she counsels Mr. Darcy, she sews the pockets of Wickham’s coat shut, and she is always, fearlessly herself. Desai delivers a wonderful performance as Cassie. Cassie’s relationship with Brian, a childhood friend and fellow servant at Pemberley played by Jesse Lavercombe, is the one you’ll be rooting throughout the play.

When Wickham, played by Nate Cheeseman, quite literally crashes onto the stage, Pemberly and its already frantic Christmas preparations are thrown into disarray. Is Wickham a changed man, is he planning something insidious, will Lydia see Wickham for the man he truly is? You’ll just have to see the play for yourself to find out.

The Wickhams is heartwarming, full of holiday cheer and a play you won’t want to miss this season.

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