Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Wayman's interview with Jeffrey Brian Adams and Monique Hafen of She Loves Me and Richard's reviews of She Loves Me, Equus, All Aunt Hagar's Children, Rapture, Blister, Burn, Entanglement, Absolutely Fabulous, and Cirque du Soleil's Luzia
Miss Bennet takes place in the world of Jane Austen during the Regency Period in England. The story centers on the bookish Mary Bennet (Martha Brigham), spinster sister of the Bennet family, who falls in love with good-looking Arthur de Bourgh (Adam Magill), nephew of the late Catherine de Bourgh. The story is brilliant with humor and written in a definitive style of Jane Austen that seems fresh. The playwrights wrote Miss Bennet as a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, setting their play about two years after Austen's novel ends.
All are gathered at Christmastime at Pemberley Estate with the Bennet sisters: Mary and the married Jane Bingley (Lauren Spencer), Elizabeth Darcy (Cindy Im), and Lydia (Erika Rankin). Jane and Elizabeth are with their husbands Charles (Thomas Gorrebeeck) and Fitzwilliam (Joseph Patrick O'Malley) and Lydia Wickham (Erika Rankin) is without her husband and has the "hots" for Arthur. Added to this mix is Anne de Bough (Laura Odeh), the supposed fiancée of Arthur.
Gunderson and Melcon have written a clever comedy of manners with smart, humorous dialogue that makes what you forget about the world outside in these bleak days. It's a pure escapist comedy of wits.
Director Meredith McDonough directs with expert skillnever once does the play bog down. It's a quick-paced two hours with intermission. He has assembled a wonderful cast to perform with pitch perfect English accents, thanks to dramaturg Laura A. Brueckner. Martha Brigham is splendid as the academic Mary Bennet. She plays the role with spirit. Adam Magill is outstanding as the bumbling Arthur. He is sidesplitting as the nervous geek as he blunders both verbally and physically in meetings with Mary.
Laura Odeh, as the unknown fiancée Anne, delivers a wonderful performance. She has some of the best comic lines of the evening. Joseph Patrick O'Malley and Thomas Gorrebeeck are both splendid and speak every line clearly, straight out of a Jane Austen novel. Cindy Im, Lauren Spencer, and Erika Rankin rock as the sisters.
Erik Flatmo's set is simply magnificent. There is a gorgeously elegant Regency-era drawing room in the center, with a pianoforte where Mary holds forth. The sound design by Sarah Huddleston is pitch perfect. Callie Floor's costumes are superb and capture the vivacity of the holiday season with period-perfect detail.
Bottom Line: Even if you are not a Jane Austen fan you will soon be when you see this production.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley runs through December 18, 2016, at the Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave. Mill Valley For tickets call 415-388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org. Coming up next is Nambi E. Kelley's Native Son opening On January 18 and running through February 12.