Sunday, January 19, 2020
‘Christmas at Pemberley’ Aiming to Become a Holiday Tradition
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Chris Carwithen stars as the young man with a penchant for science who comes into the life of Kayla Kelley’s Mary Bennet, the often overlooked member of the Bennet sisters.
 
Tuesday, December 3, 2019
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY KIRSTEN SCHULTZ

There are no ghosts of Christmas past at Pemberley mansion.

Instead, there’s a revealing—of the odd sister out: Mary Bennet, the fiercely intelligent, somewhat  feminist but often awkward middle sister, who got only 12 lines in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

In Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon’s cleverly imagined sequel to that classic, Mary Bennet  becomes the center of attention as she bursts through the cauldron of frayed English manners to find her match, perhaps even evading the spinster life Austen fans always thought she would have.

Company of Fools will bring this romantic comedy to life Dec. 11 through 29 when they present “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.”

“It’s a little like putting ‘Pride and Prejudice’ down and picking up the sequel,” said Director Scott Palmer. “And, in doing so, we’re focusing on a character no one knows, a character who finds her voice and life and love. And, you would think it was written by Jane Austen if you didn’t know better.’

Gunderson—America’s most produced living playwright—began brainstorming the play during a six-hour road trip with Melcon after lamenting that there were so few good holiday plays. By the time they had reached their destinations, they had outlined the plot on Starbucks napkins

A good holiday story had to have beloved holiday characters and be centered around family coming together, Melcon said. It also had to have a love story, a tree and a moment of personal transformation.

In that vein, “Christmas at Pemberley” picks up two years after “Pride and Prejudice” ends in 1815. The Bennet sisters have gathered to celebrate Christmas at Pemberley, the estate of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy. Jane and Elizabeth are happy and secure in their marriages, and younger sister Lydia is enthralled with her big city life. But Mary is facing an uncertain future.

She’s serious, a little preachy and she plays piano—badly.

 “She’s unapologetic, not afraid to say what’s on her mind,” said Kayla Kelley, who plays Mary Bennet.

But, wait! Just when you think she’s predestined to be a spinster, Arthur de Bourgh--a young man “in possession of good fortune” but interested only in scientific textbooks--walks into her life. Could this man who bucks convention be the one for her, or will something get in the way?

“He’s the only character created by the playwright, not Jane Austen,” said Chris Carwithen, who plays the newcomer in the Bennet sisters’ lives. “He does not fit into the refined civilization to which the others ascribe. He likes to push boundaries.”

The play, which is appropriate for the entire family, is one of the most produced shows in America, with 800 productions taking place across the country this year alone.

“It’s going to give ‘Christmas Carol’ a run for its money,” said Cassandra Bissell, who plays Elizabeth Darcy.

The two-hour play is a romantic comedy—funny, charming, sweet and delightful. It serves up numerous inspirational moments, as well. Take this piece of advice from Mr. Darcy to Arthur: “Say the words you long to hear from her.”

“It’s interesting to see Mr. Darcy in this,” added Neil Brookshire, who plays Fitzwilliam Darcy. “He’s very much a man of the house, the elder statesman. But he tends to be quiet—he’s not into chit chat. When he does speak there’s a reason for it.  And, with it being the holidays, he’s very relaxed about letting young people in love take care of their own angst.”

Others in the cast include Orion Bradshaw, who will play Charles Bingley and Alexis Ulrich, who will play Lydia Wickham.

The wardrobes are lush, gorgeous. And the set is being designed by Jesse Dreikosen, head of Design and Technology at the University of Idaho and the National Chair of Design, Technology and Management for The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

Dreikosen has designed for theaters across the country, including The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, The Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Montana Shakespeare in the Parks.

This is her first of many collaborations with the Fools, said Palmer: “She had a crowd of students bring down a truckload of design elements and put them together.”

IF YOU GO

What: Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9 (Sensory-Friendly for those with autism spectrum and other sensory disorders); 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, Dec. 11-12; 6:45 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13 (Opening Night); 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Dec. 18-21; 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22; 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, Dec. 27-28; 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28 (Parent & Baby); 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28, 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29.

Where: Liberty Theatre in Hailey

Tickets; $35 for members of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, $40 for nonmembers, $35 for seniors 62 and older, $15 for students, $35 for members of a group of eight or more. Educators will be offered two $15 tickets on Dec. 14. The 10 front-row seats cost $10 each.

Tickets are available at www.sunvalleycenter.org, by phone at 208-578-9122 or at The Liberty Theatre box office.

SPECIAL DEALS: There are three Pay What You Feel Nights: The Dec. 9 Sensory-Friendly Performance; the First Wednesday performance on Dec. 11, and the Parent & Baby Matinee on Saturday, Dec. 28. A $24 ticket Throwback Thursday Preview iill be held Dec. 12.

POST-SHOW CHAT BACK and Backstage Tour will be offered at the Sunday, Dec. 22, matinee.

DATE NIGHT will be held Saturday, Dec. 14, with discounted wine, beer and bubbly, chocolate and a chance to win prizes.


 

 

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