by Patti Roberts
Holiday family gatherings bring together presents, as well as pasts and futures. And that’s exactly what happens when the famous Bennet sisters celebrate the season in a new holiday play at Capital Stage.
Miss Bennet is a sweet, sassy sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by modern-day playwrights Lauren Gunderson (who wrote Silent Sky—recently staged locally by Big Idea Theatre) and Margot Melcon. This adaptation features many of the familiar characters from Austen’s iconic novel, including the Bennet sisters: Elizabeth, Jane, Mary and Lydia, as well as Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley—and introduces us to a new character/suitor (since you can’t have an Austen storyline without a suitor), Arthur de Bourgh.
The story cleverly incorporates a bit of modern-day feminism by focusing on the bookish and oft-forgotten middle sister Mary—a self-proclaimed young spinster who loves books and knowledge and yearns for a bigger life outside the societal expectations of 18th century women. But have no fear—the playwrights skillfully preserve Austen’s wry wit and parlor-appropriate manners and language.
The gist of the story is the awkward a-dork-able courtship between Mary (Elyse Sharp), who bemoans another holiday as the sad single sister, and the socially clumsy academic de Bourgh (Aaron Kitchin) who reluctantly has been pulled into the family dynamics. Sharp and Kitchin are so endearing as the nerds in love that, though the ending is obvious from the start, you can’t help but cheer them on through the hills and dales of parlor parleys.
The courting couple is surrounded by equally talented cast members that bring the heart and soul to familiar characters, even the bit-too-shrill youngest sister Lydia. Capital Stage’s production elements are pitch perfect—from the finely furnished parlor to the handsome costumes, and from the clever piano that provides mood music to the beautiful lighting that captures emotions.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is a delight and a most-welcome reprieve in this season of endless holiday theater retreads.