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Review: ‘Miss Bennet Christmas at Pemberley’ at Round House Theatre

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Love is in the air for Miss (Mary) Bennet this Christmas in the imagined, holiday-themed sequel to Jane Austen’s literary masterpiece Pride and Prejudice – Miss Bennet Christmas at Pemberley – now receiving its rolling world premiere at Bethesda’s Round House Theatre.

Katie Kleiger (Mary Bennet) and William Vaughan (Arthur de Bourgh). Photo by Grace Toulotte.

Katie Kleiger (Mary Bennet) and William Vaughan (Arthur de Bourgh). Photo by Grace Toulotte.

In Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon’s winning new play, under Eleanor Holdridge’s astute direction, the ever scholarly, steadfast and single Mary Bennet (superbly portrayed by Katie Kleiger in her Round House debut) is catapulted from her role as the marginalized middle sister to nouveau heroine and love interest when she meets Arthur de Bourgh (excellently executed by William Vaughn) at the family gathering for Christmas at Pemberley, the estate of her sister Elizabeth (a keenly nuanced performance by Erin Weaver) and brother-in-law, Fitzwilliam Darcy (marvelously played by a prominently sideburned Danny Gavigan).

Erin Weaver (Elizabeth Darcy), Katie deBuys (Jane Bingley), Katie Kleiger (Mary Bennet), and Miranda Rizzolo (Lydia Wickham). Photo by Grace Toulotte.

Erin Weaver (Elizabeth Darcy), Katie deBuys (Jane Bingley), Katie Kleiger (Mary Bennet), and Miranda Rizzolo (Lydia Wickham). Photo by Grace Toulotte.

Set about two years after Darcy marries Lizzie, Miss Bennet unfolds in the days preceding Christmas within two exquisitely elegant rooms (masterfully designed by Daniel Conway with visually striking period pieces by props master Kasey Hendricks) at the Pemberley estate with a talented team of players adorned with gorgeous empire flocks (courtesy of Costume Designer Kendra Rai). In addition to Kleiger, Vaughn, Weaver, and Gavigan, Katie deBuys as a very congenial and pregnant Jane Bingley and her husband Charles (humorously handled by Round House veteran Brandon McCoy), Lydia Wickham (divinely delivered by Miranda Rizzolo) and a booming Kathryn Tkel as Anne de Bourgh.

Although Mary and Arthur strike an almost immediate spark and seem all too similar, with nearly identical idiosyncrasies, especially when compared to the original storyline’s love-hate courtship battles of Lizzie and Darcy, stimulating subplots and obstacles develop in both Acts that pique interest in their inevitable pairing.

Brandon McCoy (Charles Bingley), William Vaughan (Arthur de Bourgh), and Danny Gavigan (Fitzwilliam Darcy). Photo by Grace Toulotte.

Brandon McCoy (Charles Bingley), William Vaughan (Arthur de Bourgh), and Danny Gavigan (Fitzwilliam Darcy). Photo by Grace Toulotte.

Droll and delicious, Miss Bennett Christmas at Pemberley is a charming, confectionary celebration of fan favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice, multi-generationally honoring the legacy of Jane Austen’s humor, playfulness and wit in a warm-spirited holiday theatrical production.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and 10 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

Miss Bennett Christmas at Pemberley plays through December 18, 2016 at Round House Theatre – 4545 East-West Highway, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 644-1100, or purchase them online.

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