A New Holiday Play Jane Austen Might Enjoy

Part of me would like to think that plays spring from playwrights’ pens (or keyboards) as almost inevitable outpourings of inner voices and passions yearning to break out — “Art”.  But of course, even to the extent that is occasionally true, writing plays is very hard work and there can be a lot of engineering and design involved.  This was the case with Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, now playing at Marin Theatre Company as part of its national rolling world premiere.

Margot Melcon and Lauren Gunderson Photo: Josh Edelson, San Francisco Chronicle

Margot Melcon and Lauren Gunderson
Photo: Josh Edelson, San Francisco Chronicle

The playwrights started with the intent to write a holiday play — in high demand by regional theatre companies.  On a long road trip, using napkins for notes, they decided on a Jane Austen theme and focused on Mary Bennet — the middle sister in “Pride and Prejudice” of whom we know little from the book except she plays rather poor pianoforte and is socially awkward.  Gunderson and Melcon have let her grow up a bit, improve her piano skills and have her own romantic encounter while on a Christmas visit to her sister Elizabeth and brother-in-law Mr. Darcy at  Pemberley.  They have created an equally gawky male counterpart in the dreamy Arthur de Bourgh, Darcy’s distant cousin,  who stumbles into Mary in Pemberley’s library where they bond over maps and books and take it from there.

Adam Magill as Arthur de Bourgh  and Martha Brigham as Mary Bennet  photo by Jeff Berlin

Adam Magill as Arthur de Bourgh
and Martha Brigham as Mary Bennet
photo by Jeff Berlin

I admit to being one of those Austenites who love her books so much that I am an easy touch for the many dozens of books that have been written trying to use her voice or her characters or her settings, or purporting to be sequels or prequels or alternate universes of the worlds she wrote about, particularly that of “Pride and Prejudice”.  I may have read 90% of them, and am almost always disappointed.  My sister and I avidly share the news when we find one of the rare ones that are well done.  Well, sis, you will enjoy this play!

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly is a warm, fun and frothy delight.  The playwrights do a worthy job of capturing the voices and personalities of Jane Austen’s characters, yet there is a decidedly 21st century feminist underpinning to this story set in the early 19th century. It’s a perfect holiday outing.

The play runs at Marin Theatre Company through December 18 (or perhaps December 23 if extended). Buy tickets here.

Happy Holidays!

 

Share on Facebook

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *