Shepherd Express: Acacia Theatre’s Christmas Present for Jane Austen Fans
November 29, 2023
Jason Will and Cara Johnston as Arthur and Mary in Acacia Theatre Company’s Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
Jane Austen fans — and actually anyone who enjoys a charming holiday show — will be delighted to know that there’s a sequel to her classic Pride and Prejudice now on stage at Acacia Theatre Company. And what a merry way to celebrate the season!
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley finds those Bennet sisters in December 1815, two years after the older two, Elizabeth (Shannon Nettesheim Klein) and Jane (Olivia Najera), have married well and found happiness. But then there’s the “Miss Bennet” of the title; bookish, outspoken Mary (Cara Johnston), who plays pianofortes and takes care their aging parents. Cue the matchmaking sisters and brothers-in-law, William Darcy (Ben Yela) and Charles Bingley (Josh Schiebe). And who shows up to celebrate Christmas? But the equally awkward and bookish Lord Arthur De Bourgh (Jason Will).
We can see where this is heading and it’s straight for the holiday hearts as witty wordplay and farcical antics unfold within the proper drawing room now containing a new, German tradition—a live evergreen Christmas tree! When the fourth Bennet sister, Lydia Wickham, (Bekah Rose), arrives, she creates her own festivities as she sets her sights on Lord De Bourgh, despite already being married herself. To add to the merriment of the season, De Bourgh’s controlling cousin Anne (Jena Dorn) shows up unexpectedly—to announce her engagement to the beleaguered and even more confused Lord. And the holiday spirit really kicks in trying to sort out all the romantic entanglements—real and imagined.
Playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon have brought Austen and her heroines delightfully back to life and on the stage in this first-rate production directed by Erin Nicole Eggers and Janet Bouman Peterson. The dialogue is smart and snappy while proper to the times. And the plotline of this sequel meshes seamlessly with Austen’s story and arc of action.
Using the intimate space at the Norvell Commons, Acacia once again proves that “less can be so much more” within the cozy space and sets, ideal for all the wickedly animated back and forth among the so-called proper British behaving characters.
The ensemble of eight is outstanding and excel in their individual roles. Acacia has a real find in Jason Will playing the innocent, socially inept De Bourgh (having previously appeared in Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol and We Will Not Be Silent) He is perfectly matched with the equally multi-talented Cara Johnston as the outspoken, quietly passionate Mary, seeking more of the world outside of her books and music. The cast works so well together and have their comedic timing down pat, including those upper-class British accents.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is a great way to get into the spirit of the holidays, a remembrance of things past while celebrating the present(s) season.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley runs through Dec. 3 in Norvell Commons at St. Christopher’s Church, 7845 N. River Road, River Hills. For more information, call: 414-744-5995, or visit acaciatheatre.com.
ALL REMAINING PERFORMANCES ARE SOLD OUT!