by Lorie Lewis Ham
Fresno State University Theatre is offering a lovely show to enjoy for the holiday season, Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley. Having enjoyed several variations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I looked forward to this new play and I was not disappointed. It was written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon.
The story takes place after Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth (Sofia McCurry) is now happily married to Fitzwilliam Darcy (Jacob Franz) and they are getting ready to enjoy Christmas at Pemberley. Her sister Jane Bingley (Alexis Macedo) joins them, along with her husband Charles Bingley (Jimmy Haynie), and the Bingley’s are expecting their first child. They are also joined by their unmarried sister Mary Bennet (Evangelia Pappas), and later by their sister Lydia (Teya Juarez). Elizabeth has decided to adopt a German tradition and has put up a Christmas tree in their home, which provides many jokes and comments throughout the play, as no one understands why there is a live tree inside the house.
While you will miss some of the jokes in the play if you are not familiar with Pride and Prejudice, you will still enjoy the play, as the main focus of the story is Mary. Mary has spent her life feeling invisible next to her sisters. She is very smart and cares a great deal about learning, and always speaks her mind-a trait that isn’t always appreciated. A new character to this world is that of a cousin of Darcy’s, Arthur de Bourgh (Ian Jones), who is also a cousin of Anne de Bourgh (Madeline Rydberg) who expected to marry Darcy before Elizabeth came along. Arthur ends up having a great deal in common with Mary and they connect immediately, but of course the path to love is never smooth so many problems crop up along the way.
Ian Jones is always a joy to see on stage as he has the ability to truly embody whatever character he is playing, from Dorian Gray to Quasimodo, to the bumbling, awkward, and sweet Arthur. I have seen Alexis Macedo grow as an actress over the last few years having seen her in many River City Theatre Co. shows, and she was perfect as Jane Bingley. The last time I saw Jimmy Haynie he blew me away as transgender teen girl La Cienaga in Selma Arts Center’s production of Bring It On the Musical and he made a perfect Bingley. The rest of the actors are new to me, but each one did a wonderful job of bringing these characters and this story to life. The Footmen (Krishan Joshi and Erik Olson) were a riot!
This is a delightful story of family, love, and Christmas, and something the entire family can enjoy this holiday season. The cast did a wonderful job, the set was lovely, and the costumes were perfect. Director Brad Myers deserves kudos for putting together such an enjoyable show.
I highly recommend that you don’t miss your final chances to see Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley at Fresno State, Speech Arts Building, 5201 North Maple Avenue M/S SA46, in the John Wright Theatre this week-the remaining performances are December 11-15. Tickets can be purchased online and at the door.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 10 episodes are now up and the latest one is set at Christmas time! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean. Also check out our other theatre articles and reviews in our Arts and Entertainment section.