The Howard – Theater Review – Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley – Playhouse on Park

Reviewer:                         Howard Steven Frydman aka “The Howard”

Production:                      Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley  

Theater:                            Playhouse On Park

Playwright:                       Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon

Director:                           Sasha Bratt

The Howard’s Exhale – “POPS Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” – a Scrumptious Holiday Gift!

“Truly Scrumptious – You’re truly truly scrumptious – Scrumptious as a cherry peach parfait
When you’re near us, It’s so delicious – Honest Truly – Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley – you’re the answer to all our wishes”!  Well friends – wrap it up with a big red bow, tinsel and holly – this current Playhouse on Park production is indeed a scrumptiously bright yuletide offering. “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley”, currently running at POP from December 1st till the 19th, is the next chapter in the ongoing romances of novelist Jane Austen’s, renown and celebrated characters, the “Bennet Sisters”, offered here by playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, directed by the legendary Sasha Bratt, and starring Sydney Torres as Mary Bennet and Ted Gibson as Arthur de Bourgh.

Mr. Darcy this, Mr. Darcy that??  – nope – the aloof romantic hero has put a ring on the finger of his beloved Elizabeth (Lizzie) finally!!  The only thing dashing about Darcy this time around is that Lizzie has her darling Darcy dashing about as part of the sister’s lovelorn masterplan mission to secure a husband for a fourth Bennet sister. Yep, – love is in the air once more – friends hold tight onto that mistletoe – mischief and romance is on its way – Ooohwee!!! – this is gonna be fun!!

This time around, it’s all about the middle sister, the plain, socially awkward yet scholarly and musically inclined little Mary Bennet- it’s her time to find romance with a little help from her matchmaking sisters – don’t cha think? The family has gathered at the majestic home of the Darcy’s, Pemberley, Lizzie is fast at work with a new-fangled notion from Germany – an in-house Christmas tree- oh my that’s a novelty! Joining in the festivities include; Charles and Jane (nee Bennet) Bingley, now several months with child;  the wildly flirtatious Lydia Wickham –  the first and youngest of the Bennet sisters to wed, oy vey now that’s a story!; and their guests, the invited – the bookish Arthur de Bourgh and that lowly interloper Anne de Bourgh. Anne, daughter of the wealthy, and oh so domineering Lady Catherine De Bourgh, who has met her just rewards – but her shadow of discord to the Bennet gals is still being felt. Though Lady Catherine’s property and monies are to go to the male heir, her often betrothed daughter is on the prowl to finally snatch a man and keep the estate intact – you got it – namely meek, mild and bookish Mr. Arthur de Bourgh who seems to have eyes for Mary – Hmmm? What’s a poor (ahem) bloke to do?

Sydney Torres as Mary Bennet

“Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” is a clever and innovative juxtaposition of what may or may not take place after the happenings of “Pride and Prejudice” – it’s chock full of those delightful repercussions that are brought forth because of hasty judgements. It’s charmingly apparent to all who will get what in the end -hey – its Austin-thentic! By the way- as I mentioned over a year ago B.C. (Before Covid) after seeing POPS production of “Pride and Prejudice” and now “Miss Bennet-Christmas at Pemberley” – I would so gladly like to propose to the POP A.D.s  that you include a POP/Jane Austen Romance Festival  yearly  as part of your main stage season.

Firstly, kudos to our Director – Sasha Bratt – an extraordinary force in theater direction, a Connecticut legend helping to shape today’s theater scene. A true visionary is Sasha – an audience may never truly realize all that goes into a production from its style and staging, sets and even the music  – we thank you sir for your enduring and continuing legacy to Connecticut theater. Two on-set notables – Costume Designer Lisa Bebey for her excellent “Regency Era” designs and Scenic Designer, Anna Brewster for her elegant Pemberley onstage visuals.

Howard Steven Frydman and Sasha Bratt

Major applause to an enthusiastic cast of players- they are as happy to be on stage and we – an appreciative audience are pleased as well to be in their presence enjoying live theater at its finest. I humbly thank this delightful cast including our two main leads: Sydney Torres as Mary Bennet and Ted Gibson as Arthur de Bourgh – at plays end- an elderly woman sitting nearby is in literal tears when our two stalwarts finally come together-Brava to you both!! Additional cast members include: Dakota Mackey-McGee as Elizabeth Darcy, Griffin Stanton-Ameisen as Fitzwilliam Darcy, Kristin Fulton as Jane Bingley, Karim Nematt as Charles Bingley, Moira O’Sullivan as Anne De Bourgh and finally the coveted “Howard Noticed You Award” rightly goes to Miss Laura Axelrod for her vibrant scene stealing performance-she was like a bolt of lightning on stage- full of energy—in her portrayal of Lydia Wickham- good Job Miss Axelrod! A scrumptious and most excellent live production at every turn. Enjoy!

Laura Axelrod as Lydia Wickham

Tickets are now on sale for MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY,. and range from $40-$50. Student and Senior discounts are available. Student Rush is $10 (cash only), available 15 minutes prior to curtain. Previews are on December 1 and 2, with all tickets at $20. 2pm matinees are on Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Evening performances are at 7:30pm on Wednesday and Thursday, and at 8pm on Friday and Saturday.

COVID-19 Policy: All patrons must be fully vaccinated. Vaccination card, government issued ID, and masks are required for all patrons.

For more information or tickets, call the Box Office at 860-523-5900 x10 or visit www.playhouseonpark.org. Playhouse on Park offers discounts for group sales; inquire today! Playhouse on Park is located at 244 Park Road, West Hartford, CT 06119.

 Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@gmail.com

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