Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is highly entertaining, funny, and heartwarming. Based on the book Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, the story revolves around the Bennet family as they gather together for the holidays at the home—known as Pemberley—of Elizabeth Bennet (aka Mrs. Darcy, played by Shelley Johnson) and her husband Fitzwilliam (Michael A. Newcomer). Three of the sisters are married off (albeit one quite unhappily), and the clever and socially awkward Mary is the only one among them to remain single. But Mary Bennet (Helen Jaksch) would rather curl up with a good book than with a man, and she'd rather chastise a guy than court one. In fact, in one scene, Mary admits that she would prefer to marry a plant than an idiot man.
Until, that is, the charmingly eccentric Arthur de Bourgh (Ian Hoch) shows up at Pemberley for a visit. He proves himself to be her intellectual equal, is probably even more romantically challenged, and the two have a lot in common. They share a fondness of reading, of music, and as you might guess, of each other.
But things can't be that that simple, and the plot twist comes in the form of de Bourgh's surprise fiancée, who unexpectedly appears on the doorstep to convince him to return home with her. Confusion and heartbreak result, but the entire family ultimately pulls together to sort out the ensuing mess.
It's a fairly typical family Christmas, fraught with family drama, misunderstandings, sibling rivalry, yet lots of love. And what would Christmas be without a tree? The festively decorated spruce tree becomes a character of its own in the play, which simply adds to the comedic effect. During this time period, Christmas trees were still practically an unheard-of custom. It therefore causes quite a ruckus to have one suddenly turn up in the living room at Pemberley. Tree jokes abound, and every single one brings a laugh.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is as witty as it is emotional. There is so much talent on stage, and every cast member does an exceptional job of bringing life to their respective roles. In particular, they all successfully pull off rather convincingly authentic English accents. With such endearing characters, it's hard not to get caught up in them as well as in their story. Even the scene changes between acts were creative and fun.
If you love Christmas, if you're a Jane Austen fan, if you're a hopeless romantic who believes everyone can find love, you'll love Miss Bennet. Or, if you simply want to be amused and entertained for a few hours, check out the show at the Loyola University, Marquette Theatre until December 23. Either way, you'll leave the play feeling hopeful and Christmasy.
Southern Rep Theatre's production of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is playing until December 23 at Loyola University, Marquette Theatre. 6363 St. Charles Ave. 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 3:00 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, click HERE.
Photos by John B. Barrois.