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Review: Jane Austen Fans Embrace an Enchanting New MISS BENNET

It's the holidays at Pemberley. One might expect lavish decorations, ornate rooms, and a ball to be had any day now. But it's not the eclectic library or drawing room that stands out in Marin Theatre Company's latest production - although the tree does receive a few pleasant jabs throughout. Playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon treat us to a family Christmas in which the Bennet sisters continue to meddle, prattle and all together steal our hearts.

In this sequel to Austen's Pride and Prejudice, middle sister Mary Bennet, previously forgotten as a dull and withdrawn philosopher, has grown into a resilient, albeit socially awkward, young woman, lost in her maps and books, but possessing an incredible and often entertaining wit. "I do not like farce," she states when she finds herself part of one. Indeed, there are plenty of laughs to be had in "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley." Second ex-fiancés, mistaken love notes, and enchanting romance wholly enthrall us in the Austen spirit.

It is rather delightful to watch the visiting Arthur de Bourgh seek out advice on women from Fitzwilliam Darcy (Joseph Patrick O'Malley) and Charles Bingley (Thomas Gorrebeeck), and to chuckle as he literally hides from the advances of a gloriously flirtatious Lydia Wickham (Erika Rankin) and an amusingly demanding Anne de Bourgh (Laura Odeh). Arthur has just inherited Lady's Catherine's estate, Rosings Park, but prefers the comfort of a good book in the library to his new responsibilities, making him a perfect match for Mary Bennett.

Adam Magill and Martha Brigham are marvelous as the fated lovers, Magill's Arthur adorably uncomfortable at every turn and Brigham's Mary establishing a new independence amongst so many married sisters. The pair has such a natural draw to them that we need not blink an eye at the prospect of marriage by play's end. Brigham' sharp and engaging Mary truly leads the charming production. We can only hope to see her title character take her place next to other favorite Jane Austen heroines, perhaps even eventually on film.


Marin Theatre Company through December 23

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