Folks looking for some live holiday entertainment can check out a couple of seasonal sequels now on stage in the North Bay.
The Marin Theatre Company is hosting the premiere of Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon’s sequel to their sequel of their sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Georgiana & Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley runs in Mill Valley through Dec. 19.
The third and final installment of the Pemberley trilogy tells yet another story of the Christmas goings-on at the Darcy family estate. This time, it’s musically-gifted Georgiana Darcy (Lauren Spencer) who discovers true love in the person of the shy Henry Grey (Zahan F. Mehta) only to have it thwarted by her overprotective brother Fitzwilliam (Daniel Duque-Estrada). It’s the Bennet sisters to the rescue—mostly—and, while it takes a few decades this time around, all is well by show’s end.
After The Wickhams somewhat-dark downstairs venture, G & K returns upstairs, so the tone is a little lighter than its immediate predecessor. The Bennet connection is maintained through Georgiana’s close friendship with Kitty (Emilie Whelan) and the steadfast support of Elizabeth (Laura Odeh), as Georgiana seeks to overcome the personal and artistic limitations imposed on her by her brother and society.
The first act seems understandingly derivative of its predecessors, but the second takes a giant leap forward in time and circumstances that requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief, especially a casting choice that—whether initiated by the playwrights or by the director—comes off a bit gimmicky. But, if you’re already willing to believe that anyone and everyone who enters Pemberley Manor on Christmas will find love, you’ll be willing to buy the entire premise.
Director Meredith McDonough’s cast give it their all to make that purchase a lot easier. Spencer nicely underplays the transformation of Georgiana from self-effacing sister to culture-challenging composer. Whelan’s Kitty provides comedic heart in partnership with Adam Magill’s Thomas O’Brien, the friend of Henry Grey with whom Kitty ends up. See? Everyone finds love at Pemberley.
Scenic designer Nina Ball and costume designer Fumiko Bielefeldt drape the stage and cast in magnificent 19th-century accoutrements that, when combined with sharp dialogue and smart performances, make this show a feast for the eyes and ears.
Title aside, this feast need not be served exclusively at Christmas.