Written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, this “sequel” to Jane Auten’s classic Pride and Prejudice follows the Bennet children (minus sister Kitty) during Christmas. Book-loving sister, Mary, who has always been the outcast of the socialite family, is dreaming of a bigger life. Conveniently showing up at the door is Lord Arthur, who it turns out just like Mary also loves to read. Thus beings their inevitable romance.
For anyone who knows the original Pride and Prejudice, this production is a nostalgic feel-good experience. Then again, it can come across as a little too simple, lacking the depth that the novel (and six hour BBC mini-series) contained.
In particular, the characters of Lizzy (Lauren Jackson), Jane (Leslie Dos Remedios) and their husbands Mr. Darcy (Chris Walters) & Mr. Bingley (Tim Carlson), all seem quite flat and uninteresting. If not for having known these characters from its source material, one would have a difficult time connecting with the clan in this story.
Christmas at Pemberley centres around their sister Mary though, and as played by Kate Dion-Richard she offers moments of brightness. Though her bookish nature is a little overplayed, she brings a sense of humour and surprising complexity to the role.
Matthew MacDonald-Bain as the bumbling Lord Arthur is also a treat to watch. Playing the awkward amateur gentleman, it is hard not find yourself cheering for him to succeed (which of course he does).
Another joy to watch is Baraka Rahmani as Lydia, whose flirtatious and high-energy character keeps things engaging. She is over the top, but it works. Her moments of vulnerability are a nice contrast to the bouncy energy she maintains.
There are a few witty moments of farce throughout the production. Had director Roy Surette and his cast committed to the idea of a farce Christmas at Pemberley could have been a smarter one.
Ted Roberts has created a lavish and festive set. There are magical moments, including the snow outside and the tree that gets decorated as the play progresses. The costumes from Amy McDougall are beautiful, but some appear to be more contemporary than others.
Overall, Christmas at Pemberley is an easy watch, with the audience responding to the overly cheesy and predictable nature of its story. If you’re looking for a simplistic but feel good show, look no further.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon. Directed by Roy Surette and assistant directed by Jennifer Copping. An Arts Club Theatre Company production at the Granville Island Stage (1585 Johnston St, Vancouver) through December 30. Visit artsclub.com for tickets and information.