Miss Bennet focuses on bookish sister Mary, who receives short shrift in the original novel, and re-imagines her as a smart, practical, independent woman. In the same way, this play goes deeper in the character of Lydia, who you may remember married Mr. Wickham in a scandal in the novel, and in Miss Bennet keeps up the facade of a happy marriage. The Wickhams allows Lydia to be not just a silly and thoughtless girl whose every decision is made for her, but a more complex young woman who chooses her own life. The Wickhams feels like Jane Austen for the #metoo era. George Wickham represents that charming scoundrel who appears so often in novels (and in real life), and turns that idea on its head, revealing that it's actually not charming to deceive and mistreat women, and women both real and fictional are no longer going to put up with that kind of behavior. Hooray!
|Mrs. Reynolds (Angela Timberman) does not approve of
The Wickhams (Nate Cheeseman and Kelsey Didion)
(photo by Rich Ryan)
|aren't they sweet?! Brian and Cassie (Jesse LaVercombe
and Roshni Desai, photo by Rich Ryan)
At first I was a little disappointed at the thought that we'd spend the whole play downstairs, there was such fun happening amongst the family in the beautiful upstairs! But I soon got over it, because as those of us who watch Downton Abbey know, there's just as much drama downstairs. And while the setting may not be as elegant as other rooms in the grand estate that is Pemberley, the big house kitchen is smartly and efficiently represented by Chelsea M. Warren's set design, with a glowing fireplace, many workspaces, kitchen implements, greenery, stairs leading to the main house, and even sheets hanging to dry by the fireplace. Costume designer Sarah Bahr returns from last year and continues the tradition of the gorgeous empire waist dresses and three-piece suits for the upstairs dwellers, as well as practical period clothing for downstairs. Down to the charming image of Pemberley with snow softly falling displayed on the curtain pre-show, everything about the design of the show is pitch perfect.
|the cast of The Wickhams downstairs (photo by Rich Ryan)
The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley continues through December 30. You would be wise to make reservations early because with a show this delightful, coming off of high expectations from last year, the charming little jewel box of a theater will likely sell out many performances. It's a pleasure to return to Pemberley, and I hope Jungle continues this tradition for many years to come. Bennet sisters forever!
*You can read about all of the holiday shows I've seen here.