Produced by: City Lights Theater Company
Directed by: Virginia Drake
Featuring: Melinda Marks, James Lewis, Laura Domingo, Jeremy Ryan, Brooke silva, Keenan Flagg, Alyssa Teixeira, Tonya Duncan, Charneé Young, Arturo Dirzo
Running time: 90 minutes, one intermission
When: November 16 through December 17, 2017
Where: City Lights Theatre Company, 529 South Second Street, San Jose
Tickets: $19-$44. Visit cltc.org or call 408-295-4200.
'Christmas at Pemberley'
delightfully extend Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice'
City Lights Theater Company in San Jose has a solid hit on its hands with a delightfully charming production of "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley."
Extra performances have already been added to the show's run, but don't be slow to get tickets. Some of the previously scheduled performances have already sold out. The play, by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, opened on November 16 and is scheduled to close on December 17, 2017.
This is a romantic comedy filled with all sorts of stage tricks such as misunderstood intentions, misdelivered letters and inappropriate flirtations, and is very, very satisfying. Ninety minutes well spent in the theater.
It is the story of the Bennet sisters after the conclusion of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice."
Laura Domingo is Elizabeth Darcy, happily married and preparing to be hostess for Christmas by having a Christmas tree installed. Jeremy Ryan as Fitzwilliam Darcy is somewhat flummoxed by the tree ("It's a German tradition!"), but lovingly indulges his wife.
Brooke Silva is also happily married as Jane Bingley, whose husband Charles, played by Keenan Flagg is very happy with her.
Melinda Marks is the less-than-happy Mary Bennet, who gets to read a lot of books and play the piano a great deal in her new, lonely life. "I would rather marry an interesting plant than an idiot," she says, adding "I shall never find a man who understands me."
Gentile dialogue of upper class Brits of 1815 is delivered on an effective set by Ron Gasparinetti that could have, perhaps, used a few coats of glossy paint. Costumes by Patricia Tyler are fabulous, and whoever did hair and makeup was brilliant: Ryan and Flagg, especially, look as if they just stepped off the set of a James Ivory film.
And Kimberly Mohne Hill did a great job teaching everyone to speak properly — not an insignificant accomplishment.
The play starts out nicely enough, but hits a very high level with the arrival of James Lewis as Arthur de Bourgh.
The main thing about this is that Lewis is a truly excellent actor. He completely commits to his character, and never delivers a false note. This is the second time I've seen him, and I am very impressed. And he is quite gifted with comedy.
Also, once Arthur meets Mary, we immediately realize that here is a romance made in nerd heaven. They know and love the same books, they share the same fascination with the natural world, and we all think they should just get married now, no waiting for Christmas.
Ah, but that is when the the complications start to pop up for new levels of comedy.
Alyssa Teixiera as the unhappily married sister, Lydia Wickham, shows up, and she is a shameless flirt, who just assumes Arthur wants her.
Even worse, Tonya Duncan as Anne de Bourgh arrives, and announces that she is Arthur's fiancée. That's news to Arthur, but being only 25 and rather sheltered, he doesn't know how to say no.
Duncan is hilarious as Anne de Bourgh, so incredibly nasty that we just want to hiss at her and boo. (Which makes for a fun contrast at curtain call, when she proves herself to have a completely beautiful and sincere smile.)
Much confusion, and while we had first held much hope for Mary and Arthur, all of a sudden we despair of them finding a way to happiness.
Drama and comedy!
If there is a message in the dialogue of this delightful play it is "You do have a choice. If you are too afraid to use it, you don't deserve it."
There are many little charms tucked into this production, which was directed by Virginia Drake. Arturo Dirzo and Charnne Young as servants, for instance, who have no dialogue, but carry on a sweet flirtation through the course of the play anyway, including lovely little dance steps.
And at curtain there is more dancing, which stretches out the loveliness of the evening. Choreographed by Christine Herrera.
If I have to gripe — and I do — it's that the cast all too often speaks toward the wings, which makes it difficult to follow all the dialogue. No microphones. Sure, it is a small theater, but every time an actor points a mouth stage left, the folks sitting at audience left are shortchanged.
Still, a delightful time at City Lights. Don't miss it.
Email John Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org