It may be too cold to have an ice cream parfait, but if you go to the Jungle Theater, you can still partake in a delicious visual one. There, Christina Baldwin’s production of Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley is being served.
There is so much delight to be had, it’s not easy to know where to start discussing its treasures. Sarah Bahr’s costume and set design are beautifully rendered in Regency style. The set serves as the backdrop for the prelude at Longbourn, the Bennet family home, where Mary sits at her pianoforte. The appearance of two servants decorating for the holidays indicates that we’re now at Pemberly, where Elizabeth lives with her husband, Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Mary, the unwed middle sister, is bored, spending all her time reading and practicing music. The Bennets will gather at Pemberly for the holidays. (Kitty, settled in London, will arrive later with their parents). The Bingleys, Charles and a very “with child” Jane, arrive, as does the flirtatious and lonely Lydia, whose husband, Mr. Wickham, is never at home.
When Arthur de Bourgh, a young man who’s the male equivalent of Mary, arrives, the attraction – and the plot—become clear. As Elizabeth keeps explaining why there’s a tree in the hallway, Arthur and Mary realize they’re made for one another.
That is, until Anne de Bourgh, once intended for Mr. Darcy, arrives and informs Arthur of their engagement, orchestrated by her mother -- without bothering to tell him. The resolution of this plot occurs in Act 2. It’s a pleasure to see how things work out, too.
Baldwin has given Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly a sharp, clipped pace, performed by a perfect cast. The standouts, of course, are Christian Bardin as Mary, Reese Britts, and Andrea San Miguel’s vivid performance in the annoyingly showy role of the flirtatious Lydia. They’re equally matched by Sun Mee Chomet’s lovely, measured performance as Elizabeth, the protagonist of the original novel who wisely guides her sisters as the story proceeds; Roshni Desai’s delightfully sunny Jane and Anna Hickey’s pompous, spoiled Anne is the perfect counter to the Bennet girls. James Rodriguez and Jesse Lavercombe round out the cast as Darcy and Bingham and they fill these roles rather nicely. However, this is very much, the Bennet sisters’ story, and that’s the greatest pleasure of all.
Bon mots and zingers worthy of Austen are flung throughout the show as the sisters tease one another—all while trying to maintain decorum. The show is framed by holiday laurels, to resemble period portraits at the start and finish by the beautifully voiced Jennifer LeDoux and Abilene Olson. Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, here in its second Jungle outing, is a delicious parfait to enjoy as an evening of holiday theater!