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Running through December 19th

BWW Review: MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLY at Main Street Theater If you are looking for the most delightful and charming Christmas show in Houston, look no further than Main Street Theater's production of MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY. It's a sweet holiday presentation that wraps up regency era costume drama, romance, and gentle comedy all in a velvet red Christmas bow. I was smiling from the first to the final curtain, and it's a piece that should entertain the whole family for the most part... well... any family that has a fondness for the works of Jane Austen or the Netflix series BRIDGERTON. If you own a dog-eared copy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, or recall fondly any of the movie adaptations you should be in heaven.

The characters all come from Jane Austen's 1813 satire of weddings, manners, and class that featured the convoluted courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. The play picks up two years after the novel's events, and Darcy and Elizabeth are happily married and preparing for Christmas. They have invited her sisters, and middle child Mary is feeling out of place knowing that her marriage prospects are slim to none. She's bookish, stubbornly honest, and refuses to play the intricate social games her sisters find so easy and amusing. Unbeknownst to her, a Lord Arthur de Bourgh is set to visit as well. He is equally bookish, and a slave to the scientific facts over social-climbing posturing. And due to the death of his distant relation Catherine de Bourgh, he is ironically set to inherit Rosings Park. Could a romance be in the making? Or is Mary doomed to spend an eternity of never-ending Christmases at her married sisters' homes until she ends up "in the attic" of one of the estates?

This is a show that Main Street has produced previously, although it appears only a small section of the cast was in those prior productions. Chaney Moore plays Mary Bennet, and she has done the show in 2017 and 2018. The play hinges around her emotional journey, and the actress does an immaculate job portraying Mary's frustration and elation in equal doses. She was born to be a Bennet apparently. Another veteran of this particular Christmas play is Lindsay Earhardt. She plays Anne de Bourgh, the female nemesis to Mary that enters late in the first act. Lindsay displays cracker jack comic timing, even managing to be funny when her character is belting out a half-hearted Christmas carol. Skyler Sinclair appeared in the companion piece about The Wickhams at Main Street, and seems to be right at home in this one as well. She makes for a radiant "Lizzie" or Elizabeth, and she is convincing throughout. Two other actresses round out the sisters in the cast - Yemi Otulana as Jane, and Alexandra Szeto-Joe as Lydia. Yemi is stately and graceful, while Alexandra gets the fun of being the flirtatious trouble-maker. Both impress, and round the stand-out cast of female characters from Austen's book.

The men are certainly no less impressive, although decidedly more dapper in their presentation. B. Connor Flynn is the Darcy of most girls' dreams, and he is easy to love and look at. Gabriel Regojo plays a grounded Charles Bingley, and he has great chemistry in his scenes with Darcy as they muse over manly emotions in love. But at the end of the evening, it is Aaron Alford who stands out the most from the chaps. This may be due to the fact that he plays Mary's love interest, and has to match his co-star's intensity to get there. He plays brainy, socially awkward, and naive all while managing to spin it around to charming and attractive. It's no small feat to try to woo a Bennet sister onstage and have the audience root for you, and that he does.

Technically this is a handsome production with much to appreciate in every regard. Ryan McGettigan has dressed the set in period perfect elegance, while Donna Southern Schmidt has done equal justice with the clothing. Robin Robinson directs the entire piece with a precision that lets it ping pong in and out of being farce and romance in equal doses. Her staging and decisions in guiding the cast pay off. Interestingly enough the accents are very effective, and I can imagine dialect coach Rosie Ward pulled off miracles hammering out the Texas tendencies of most of the actors.

MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLY is the sort of show that will remind audiences you should do anything but marry without affection. There is a lot to love in this Christmas play that feels authentically like a gorgeous Christmas coda to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I am glad to see it getting an annual viewing at Main Street Theater, and it's a wonderful new tradition to add alongside your Nutcracker or Christmas Carol viewings.

The play runs through December 19th at Main Street Theater in their Rice Village location. COVID protocols include showing either proof of vaccination or a recent test that is negative performed in the past three days. Masks are required to be worn by the audience throughout the running time. More information and tickets can be purchased at the theater's website located at . There are also streaming options available for this show that you can find at the site.

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From This Author Brett Cullum