Thursday September 21st 2017

“miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley”

miss-bennet-8357Highly Recommended ****  The biggest problem with most English “drawing- room ” plays, is that they are English. On the positive side, it is the British humor that makes them so very special, if only the female actresses would learn how to control their voices to make what the playwright has written both audible and understandable. The World Premiere of “miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley ” now on the stage at Northlight Theatre is a wonderful  “drawing- room comedy” and very smoothly directed (indeed, almost choreographed) by Jessica Thebus (who probably understands English humor better than most) on an absolutely charming set (Richard and Jacqueline Penrod are masters at making this open stage appear to be more than it truly is).

Written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, “miss Bennet” is their imagined sequel to Jane Austen’s  “Pride and Prejudice”. In this new play, the ever dependable and reliable Mary Bennet ( a wonderful portrayal by Emily Berman) shows her displeasure at being the dutiful middle sister and living a life of loneliness. When the family gathers for Christmas at Pemberley, the estate of her sister Elizabeth (Samantha Beach) and brother-in-law, Fitzwilliam Darcy (the always reliable Alex Goodrich, who is quite the “character actor”), Mary meets another guest, Arthur de Bourgh ( an incredible performance by Erik Hellman). It seems Arthur has just inherited a large estate and needs some time to adjust.bennet12-400x267

It also seems that the daughter of the recent heiress who has left Arthur this inheritance has decided that Arthur should marry her, despite the fact that he has no thoughts of this at all. In fact, Arthur, a sort of “nerd” who has had very little contact with the opposite sex, is just finding his inner feelings as he meets and falls for Mary. Mary is sparked as well and these two, Mary and Arthur become first an intellectual match (the Nerd and Nerdette), and possibly the one that each has been destined to find in their lives.

As a supposed sequel, we are watching what MIGHT have taken place in Austen’s story after Elizabeth and Darcy wed. The other family members are supposedly given a second chance as we watch the developments that Gunderson and Melcon suppose could take place.  This is a divine cast of players. In addition to those previously mentioned, we have Aila Peck as sister Jane Bingley and her husband Charles (deftly handled by Tosin Morohunfola), Lydia Wickham (divinely played by Jennifer Latimore) and Bri Sudia as Anne de Bourgh, cousin to Arthur, who assumes that she and Arthur are engaged. The other two characters, the maid and Footman are portrayed by Summer Hofford and Roberto Jonson.

For two hours (with one 10 minute intermission between acts) we are treated to some very interesting sub-plots and a comedy of errors (most English Drawing Room comedies have this feature), but in this work, it is done with great style, partly because of the written word, partly because of the amazing director, and the rest of the reason is some very talented actors, who make each line, each movement and every facial gesture to perfection which makes this play effective. The works of Ms Austen are frequently done at Northlight so it is fitting that this new work be done on this stage.bennet13-400x267

As mentioned the set is wonderful, the lighting (Sarah Hughey),sound and original music (Kevin O’Donnell ), costumes (Melissa Torchia) and whoever handled the props did a masterful job. The tech portions were the “icing on the cake” to a production that is wonderful from start to end with the one exception of a few lines not being spoken as clearly as they might have been. I for one did not have a problem, but others, further back, did. Ladies, project to the back row and you will have a true masterpiece!

“miss Bennet” will continue at Northlight Theatre located at The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, located at 9501 Skokie Blvd (just South of Old Orchard Center) thru December 18th with performances as follows:

bennet11-267x400Tuesdays  7:30 p.m. (11/29 only)

Wednesdays  1 p.m. and  7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Sundays  2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. (11/27 only).

Tickets range from $30-$81 and are available at the box office, by calling 847-673-6300 or online at www.northlight.orgmissbennet500x600-500x445

Student tickets are  $15 (subject to availability)

Plenty of FREE Parking available

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “”miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley”

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