Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
Round House Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of The Second Shepherds' Play and Silver Belles


Katie Kleiger
Photo by Grace Toulotte
Mary Bennet (Katie Kleiger) is probably the least memorable of the five Bennet sisters in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, but playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon have remedied that situation in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, the charming and witty comedy now at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, part of a rolling world premiere.

As depicted by Austen, Lizzie Bennet (Erin Weaver) is smart, Jane (Katie deBuys) is good-hearted, and younger sisters Kitty and Lydia are giddy and foolishly romantic, but bespectacled Mary keeps to herself, reading serious books and practicing the pianoforte. Two years have passed since Lizzie and Jane married Fitzwilliam Darcy (Danny Gavigan) and Charles Bingley (Brandon McCoy), leaving Mary the only sister still living with their parents. Mary knows she wants more than to be a governess or to marry, but she wonders, “Can one live a large life in mind alone?”

The family is gathering for Christmas at Pemberley, the Darcys' lavish home, and Lizzie and Jane begin to realize that they have misjudged Mary, whose intellect and skill at the piano have both grown in the passing years.

In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy's rich, censorious aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh had wanted him to marry her daughter Anne instead of Lizzie, whom she considered an upstart and a fortune hunter. Lady Catherine died shortly before the play begins, leaving all her money to Anne (Kathryn Tkel) but, because of the law, the estate (as so often happens in Austen) has passed to the nearest male relative, another cousin, Arthur de Bourgh (William Vaughan). He's a scientist, socially awkward, and also wears glasses. Could Mary Bennet have found a match at last? Toss in youngest sister Lydia Wickham (Miranda Rizzolo), devoting herself to romantic intrigues in the absence of her husband, and the various plots start bubbling.

Kleiger is hilariously forthright as Mary, saying what she means without any concern about tact, and her scenes with the reclusive Vaughan are both funny and sweet. The other standout is Weaver, who presents Lizzie as a force of nature only slightly moderated by social norms.

Director Eleanor Holdridge keeps the pace lively on Daniel Conway's elegant yet lived-in set with its shelves of books, piano with inlaid panels, and high ceiling. The centerpiece of the drawing room is a tall evergreen tree, which Lizzie has decided (following a German custom little known in England at the time) to decorate with ribbons and sparkling ornaments—to the consternation of everyone else.

Round House Theatre
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
November 23rd – December 18th, 2016
By Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon
Mary Bennet: Katie Kleiger
Elizabeth Darcy: Erin Weaver
Fitzwilliam Darcy: Danny Gavigan
Jane Bingley: Katie deBuys
Charles Bingley: Brandon McCoy
Arthur de Bourgh: William Vaughan
Lydia Wickham: Miranda Rizzolo
Anne de Bourgh: Kathryn Tkel
Directed by Eleanor Holdridge
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-564-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


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