I’ve never totally jived with Jane Austen. Due to a college class, I’ve read all her books and can appreciate her pointillist wit and knotty relationship with propriety. But marriage plots, even with an ironist wink, tend to feel dated.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is one of Taproot Theatre’s holiday shows and is essentially fan fiction that debuted last year, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice by Lauren Gunderson and Margo Melcon. (Oh, yes, there are callbacks.) So I went with expectations properly tempered.
But, well, I enjoyed it. The show sidelines Elizabeth and Jane and Mr. Darcy to focus on Mary Bennet, nebbish middle sister. She’s equally passionate about science books and piano nocturnes. When Arthur de Bourgh—also wildly nebbish and the recent inheritor of an estate and fortune—visits the Darcy home for the holidays, a zippy, farcical rom-com about awkward people unfolds.
Particularly in the first half, the jokes land, due as much to the performers—leads Shanna Allman and Calder Shilling were particularly notable—as the writing.
The second act does get bogged down in the machinations of the marriage plot (the show treats the handwringing of the rich with a wink, but it still gets old), and a frivolous and over-compressed complication involving a potential engagement feels like an irritating digression. During intermission I overheard multiple qualms with the play’s portrayal of Lizzy—not feisty enough. But if you’re looking for a holiday play, especially with a family crowd, Miss Bennett is a fine match.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
Nov 21–Dec 29, Taproot Theatre, $27–$53