Arts & Entertainment

Review: Marin Theatre’s jolly ‘Christmas at Pemberley’

By December 8, 2018 No Comments
Brian (August Browning) looks on as Lydia Wickham (Madeline Rouverol) and George Wickham (Kenny Toll) embrace in "The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley’’ at the Marin Theatre Company. (Photo by Kevin Berne/MTC)

The “Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley,’’ now playing at the Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley, is less about a flaming figgy pudding than it is about a good cup of afternoon tea.

The play is a sequel to the outrageously popular 1916 MTC show “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberle.’’ Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon have drawn the plays from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Predjudice’’; both take place in the run-up to Christmas at a fabulous English country estate in early 19th century England.

Where might that be? There is a lot of discussion about this. I choose to place Pemberley at Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire, a private residence consisting of 365 rooms and employing at least a 1,000 in a good year. This will give you an accurate picture of just how busy things can be at Pemberley.

It’s a very upstairs-downstairs sort of affair, and the current play brings the toffs downstairs to deal with the licentious and handsome George Wickham (Kenny Toll), who has seduced and run off with Lizzie’s youngest sister Lydia (Madeleine Rouverol). While Lizzy and Fitzwilliam Darcy (Melissa Ortiz and David Everett Moore), who own Pemberly, run breathlessly down the stairs and up again and to dress for dinner, the matter gets sorted out by the crafty housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds (Jennie Brick).

Mrs. Reyonlds is crusty: she oversees everything: the occasional meeting between the Wickhams (he promises her Paris, she promises him money), brief visitations by the Darcys, and a burgeoning love match between groundsman Brian (August Browning) and upstairs maid Cassie (Neiry Rojo), who are always carrying around things like Christmas trees or soiled linens while gazing longingly at each other. When they get together for a gavotte at play’s end, it is clear that things will continue to move forward.

There isn’t a lot of room for character development at Pemberley, but Megan Sandberg-Zakian’s staging keeps everything in good order. Courtney Flores’ costumes are a delight, and this cast would very likely please Austen herself: the Darcys, who continually congratulate themselves for being well off (Ortiz occasionally displays Lizzie’s superior Bennet wisdom), the wacky Lydia who whinnies like a pony, and the clever temp Cassie, who will end up running the kitchen, and possibly Pemberley itself. And Mrs. Reynolds, who is equipped to tell everyone where to go, and does.

The show runs through Dec. 16.