San Antonio lovers of the works of Jane Austen and Christmastime have two reasons to rejoice this year.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, now playing at the Deco District’s Classic Theatre, delivers both sentiments in equal measure. Like the Pride and Prejudice sequel that never was, Miss Bennet is a 2017 theatrical piece that carries on the story of the characters from Austen’s famous romantic novel.
Written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, Miss Bennet takes us back to Pride territory two years later. The family gathers at the home of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy (née Bennet) to celebrate the holiday season. The guests include her sister Jane (with husband Charles) as well the impetuous Lydia, who arrives without her husband but harboring a dire secret. Also flying solo is the intense bookworm Mary, whose love of facts and history overrides her interest in actual human contact.
Another surprise guest is Arthur De Bourgh, Fitzwilliam’s recently-monied cousin, an awkward sort whose knowledge of the social graces is slim at best. Naturally, the bookish Mary and tremulous Arthur are drawn to each other, but their blossoming romance is interrupted by the appearance of the imperious Anne de Bourgh, who has already claimed Arthur for herself.
What follows is an Austen-style battle of wits whose weapons are sharpened tongues instead of swords. And it’s really funny.
Carolyn Dellinger and Alison Bridget Chambers provide the sense and sensibility as the married and more-or-less grounded sisters Elizabeth and Jane. Nick Lawson and Sam Mandelbaum contribute solid support as their hilariously snooty but affectionate husbands.
Emily Huber is fine as the nearly out-of-control Lydia, and Alyx Irene Gonzalez and Hunter Wulff are splendidly awkward as the emotionally stunted Mary and Arthur. Donna Provencher is a total scene-stealer as the incredibly huffy Anne de Bourgh.
The piece is directed with perfect comic timing by Kelly Roush, and the scenic design by Allan S. Ross is gorgeous. Jodi Karjala’s costumes are splendid, and the lighting and sound design by Pedro C. Ramirez and Rick Malone put the final ribbon on this delightful Christmas present.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through Dec. 30, 2018, at the Classic Theatre, 1924 Fredericksburg Road. Reservations can be made online or by calling (210) 589-8450.
Photos by Siggi Ragnar