Monthly Archive for: ‘December, 2016’

”Miss Bennet’ could become a new holiday favorite

Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon have created a delicious holiday confection with “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley,” presented by Marin Theatre Company.

It imagines what Jane Austen might have written as a sequel to “Pride and Prejudice.” Occurring in 1815, two years after the end of that play, this one takes place at Pemberley, the estate of Elizabeth Darcy (Cindy Im) and Fitzwilliam Darcy (Joseph Patrick O’Malley), who are hosting her family for Christmas.

First to join them is Mary (Martha Brigham), the unmarried middle sister. Next comes another sister, the very pregnant Jane Bingley (Lauren Spencer), and her husband, Charles (Thomas Gorrebeeck). The youngest sister, Lydia Wickham (Erika Rankin), arrives later, sans husband. Despite her claims to the contrary, she’s not happily married.

The story focuses on the bookish, bright but socially awkward Mary. She says she’s content with her solitary state, but some of her behavior says otherwise.

Then there’s another guest, Arthur de Bourgh (Adam Magill), invited by Mr. Darcy, much to his wife’s surprise. Arthur has recently come into an inheritance that grants him the title of lord, a fortune and an estate.

He’s uncomfortable with all three. Similarly, he’s uncomfortable with most people because, like Mary, he’s bookish and socially awkward. It’s only natural that they would be attracted to each other, but their shyness gets in the way.

There are other complications, too, such as Lydia’s flirting with Arthur and a mixup of letters written by her, Mary and Arthur. Another complication is the arrival of Arthur’s cousin, the catty Anne de Bourgh (Laura Odeh), who claims they are engaged, much to his surprise and Mary’s chagrin.

Of course all works out well in the end, thanks in large part to interventions by the two married couples.

Although it’s a love story, it’s also a celebration of the importance of family and kindness to one another.

The playwrights write in the style of Jane Austen, which can seem formal at first but which soon seems natural. For example, except for the sisters, who use each other’s first names, people, even the married couples, address one another as Mr., Mrs. or Miss.

There’s much humor to leaven all that formality, producing many laughs.

Besides the script itself, much of the play’s success stems from Meredith McDonough’s sure-handed direction of the ensemble cast. All of the actors seem well suited to their roles. It’s great fun to watch their characters’ reactions as situations unfold. Even if the conversation is between just two people, there’s much to be gained from watching the others.

The handsome drawing room set, complete with an elevated library area, is by Erik Flatmo (lighting by Paul Toben). The ceiling-high Christmas tree that graces one corner seems strange to most of the characters, but Elizabeth says it was inspired by a German custom. As the play progresses, lights and ornaments are added.

The elegant costumes are by Callie Floor, while the holiday-flavored sound design is by Sara A. Huddleston.

Running about two hours with one intermission, this production is the third of a rolling world premiere. The other two opened in Chicago and Bethesda, Md., within the two weeks before this opening.

It’s scheduled to run through Dec. 18, but in his pre-curtain speech, artistic director Jasson Minadakis said he hopes audience demand will extend it through Dec. 23. Given the success of opening night, an extension seems likely. It’s also likely that the play will become a holiday treat elsewhere as well.

Marin Theatre is at 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley. For tickets and information, call (415) 388-5208 or visit


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