Northlight’s MISS BENNET Is Full of Austen Charm and Wit

Northlight’s MISS BENNET Is Full of Austen Charm and Wit

(l-r) Erik Hellman and Emily Berman. Photo by Charles Osgood.

Review: MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY at Northlight Theatre.

By Abigail Trabue

For Austen fans like myself, there is an apprehensive feeling of delight whenever the Pride and Prejudice story continues and we re-enter the world of Elizabeth Bennet and her Mr. Darcy. Will it build faithfully on an already beloved story? Will it feel fresh and accessible? Will Darcy go for a swim in the pond again? You know, the important questions. Luckily, Northlight’s world premiere production of MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY, does a fine job of continuing the Pride and Prejudice saga by giving Mary — the least likely heroine of all the Bennet sisters — her own love story with Lord Arthur de Bourgh. Their socially unique personalities, their love for books, and most importantly, Arthur’s genuine respect for Mary’s opinions gives you, the viewer, the warm fuzzies from the moment they meet.

The credit for these warm fuzzy feelings goes directly to Emily Berman and Erik Hellman because they are fantastic as Mary and Arthur. They are accessibly awkward and genuinely open with a dry witty humor that’s both hilarious and adorable. Their chemistry works from moment one and they, along with Darcy (charmingly played with plenty of humor by Alex Goodrich), save this production from the feeling of “if only they’d had one more week” time and time again.

And, yet, there were enough production bumps Friday night to keep me from losing myself in the story. MISS BENNET felt hastily thrown together. The dialect slipped in and out, period appropriate details were overlooked, and towards the end of the play we were repeatedly treated to laughter and cast/crew noise from backstage. I think we’ve all come to expect a certain level of professionalism from Northlight that MISS BENNET struggled to achieve both onstage and off, and that’s unfortunate.

But for all its rough edges, MISS BENNET is a worthy addition to an already bursting holiday theater scene. Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon’s script has just the right essence of Austen to please, and they hit the melt-in-your-seat sweet spot when Arthur presents Mary with her Christmas present. MISS BENNET is a lovely addition to the Pride and Prejudice canon. Who can’t help but cheer for the often overlooked introverts as they take on the world together?

MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY plays through December 18th at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, IL. For tickets and information visit https://northlight.org/

 

 

About author

Abigail Trabue

Abigail has worked as an actor/director in Chicago for over ten years, and along with husband Jason Epperson founded Lotus Theatricals in 2015, and PerformInk Chicago and Kansas City in 2016 (where she serves as Managing Editor of both publications). When not talking shop, Abigail is raising three padawans with Jason, drinking lots of coffee, converting school buses into RV’s, and eating all the foods at Disney World. You can find her on Twitter @AbigailTrabue

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