This is a reprint of my remarks about “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater presented on their main stage Quadracci Powerhouse Theater during the 2018 – 2019 season. This originally appeared on my Facebook timeline on November 17, 2018!
‘Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley’ is billed as a sequel to “Pride and Prejudice”. Now I am a guy of a certain age…so I have never read Jane Austen…so I didn’t have any expectations for Miss Bennet. And I was totally blown away by the language…the humor…and the messages exhibited through out the evening. The action is during a family reunion of sorts at Christmas in the home of the Darcy’s at Pemberley. Even I recognize the name Darcy, lol. So of course there is the usual dynamics around family and holiday as the core theme in the play. But on top of that love and romance and a bit of conflict to bring out the worst and then eventually the best in the characters.
The playwrights, Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, did an amazing job maintaining the feel of 18th Century culture and language and overlaying them with 21st Century societal concerns and trends. Extremely well done!
And the central story is the developing romance around Mary Bennet and holiday house guest Arthur de Bourgh. It necessarily starts slow…unknown to the protagonists at first…and nearly disappears when a surprise third party gets involved later. But there is a happy ending and a Happy Christmas to All!
I loved Rebecca Hurd as Mary Bennet. Incredible range from quiet questioning scholar to interested suitor to angry ‘jilted’ party to romantic lead. Wow! And Jordan Brodess as Arthur de Bourgh, her love interest and interested love is remarkable. His explanation to Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley of the unusual and unfamiliar feelings he was experiencing is quite hilarious and amazingly accurate! That alone is the price of admission.
I almost ignored this play. My ‘manly’ inclination was to avoid all things Jane Austen. But my membership in the Rep’s Social Media Club let me attend a rehearsal a few weeks ago and that changed my mind on attending. (side note on that rehearsal: the activity that we saw in rehearsal for probably 40 minutes or so was cut from the play. I was watching for it. BUT: the play worked much better without it in IMHO) But this was still more than I anticipated…the humor most of all. What a fun time all the while discussing society, marriage, love, the relationships of the genders, expectations, choices and freedoms.
And to the other actors that I didn’t mention! You too are truly amazing. All of the characters come to life and are fully believable. Thank you for a wonderful evening of unexpected joy! And special thanks to Kimberly Senior who directed this cast of superb actors into a family at holiday!
And to the Rep support teams. My goodness the sets and props and most of all the costumes were perfect in every way.
My wife Rosalie said the characters and their personalities are what she expected, having read the book. And she loved the men’s wardrobes…and wished men still dressed like that. I apparently will be searching for Edwardian tailors and knee high riding boots in the new year!
So, not trying to take away from A Christmas Carol, which is coming up in a few weeks, If you can only see one show this holiday season, see ‘Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley’.