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By Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal
Special to The Village News 

'Miss Bennet' features Christmas at Pemberley

 

Last updated 12/6/2018 at 1:47pm

Daren Scott photos

The Bennet sisters, from left, Jane Bingley, played by Amara Young, Mary Bennet, played by Nadia Guevara, Lydia Wickham, played by McKenna Foote and Lady Elizabeth Darcy, played by Jessi Little, celebrate the season at Pemberley.

Alas, the sequel to Miss Austen's most celebrated work "Pride and Prejudice" is here. Written by two of Austen's biggest fans, playwrights and co-authors Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, one is not disappointed.

Just so you know, the English manor known as Pemberley is suitably furnished in the Regency era and installed at the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad.

This Christmas season, Jane Austen fans are invited to join the festivities at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy's renowned home.

To further along the celebration, Lady Elizabeth Darcy is surprising her guests in an attempt toward modernity by copying the German custom of placing a spruce tree inside the house and in the parlor no less.

Four of the five sisters are present, Elizabeth, Jane, Mary and Lydia, as is Darcy's best friend and Jane's husband, Mr. Bingley.

All is as it should be until the new Earl of Rosings, Arthur de Bourgh, arrives unexpectedly and even more unexpectedly is immediately enthralled by the bookish Mary. Even more surprising, it would appear to be a mutual enchantment.

All is as it should be. Or so we thought.

Until, unexpectedly, Darcy's unmarried and uninvited cousin Lady Anne de Bourgh appears in high dudgeon. Still wearing mourning for her mother, Lady Catherine, Lady Anne seizes the opportunity to forswear the improbability of a relationship between Rosings and Mary.

After all, Lady Anne declares it was her mother's greatest desire to see that she and the new Earl continue the family lineage. Simply put, she announces to all that only she could possibly be affianced to the new Earl of Rosings, Arthur de Bourgh. Thus, sending the distraught Mary back to the library and her books.

Sensible Lady Elizabeth, played by Jessi Little, as Mistress of Pemberley is still deeply enthralled with the dashing Mr. Darcy, played by Timothy L. Cabal. They are believable, filled with charm and wield a well-coached, understandable English accent.

Jane Bingley, played by Amara Young, has such an appealing presence and endearing relationship with her charming husband Mr. Bingley, played by Sittichai Chaiyahat, it is reminiscent of the original tale, "Pride and Prejudice."

Fully established to be their parent's caregiver, Mary Bennet, played by Nadia Guevara, shows spark and spine along with a droll sense of timing during her brief wooing by the dashing Arthur de Bourgh, played by Carter Piggee.

Piggee in his debut at New Village Arts is a recent graduate from San Diego State University with a bachelor's degree in theater. He, too, has a well-defined English accent yet exudes enthusiasm perhaps more suiting for a larger theater.

Along the way, Lydia, the wife of the dishonorable Mr. Wickham, stirs up a bit of mischief in her scene stealing entreaties for attention. Newbie McKenna Foote plays the youngest sister. Foote has a commanding stage presence and, like her character, snatches every moment onstage, stealing focus reminiscent of Keira Knightly in the film, "Love Actually."

Lady Anne de Bourgh, played by Michelle Marie Trester, storms the parlor with all the determination of her birthright. As a great fan of Trester's work, she again shows her diverse range of emotions exhibiting complex change ups coupled with impeccable comedic timing.

Well-directed by Kristianne Kurner, every detail is engaging. Dialect coach Gerilyn Brault has done an exceptional job training the cast in understandable British patter even though the women's voices frequently slip to the back of their throat, becoming strident.

Sound designer Melanie Chen Cole provided understandable sound quality. Becky Goodman did a commendable job with lighting. Costumer Eliza Benzoni hit the mark on each piece with the exception of de Bourgh's boots.

The setting is in the large drawing room at the grand estate of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy in December 1815. There seems to be a large group in charge of the set design starting with production manager Rosalee Barrientos, scenic change artist Greg Ertel and two carpenter elves Paul Eddy and Trevor Rex. This is one of this year's best set designs.

The "Miss Bennet Christmas at Pemberley" cast is seen in the Pemberley drawing room.

"Miss Bennet Christmas at Pemberley" is a San Diego premier. It is a witty, well-directed and festive piece, perfect for a family outing. Naturally, it is ideal for all of Austen's followers. Enjoy Christmas compliments of New Village Arts in Carlsbad until Dec. 23. Well done. Rated 8.5 out of 10.

New Village Arts is located at 2787 State Street in Carlsbad Village. Multiple weekly performances with plenty of free parking in the Amtrak lot behind the theatre. For tickets, call the box office, (760) 433-3245, or visit http://www.newvillagearts.org.

The writer can be contacted at eyoungman@reedermedia.com.

The winners of the Mamma Mia tickets are Karilyn and Dan Luchsinger. They will be seeing the play at The Welk Resort in Escondido, Sunday, Dec. 16, at 1 p.m.

 

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