PORT ANGELES – Mary Bennet is a social misfit. A girl of modest means, she reads about the world and wonders if she will one day be able to discover its wonders.
It is now almost Christmas and Mary joins her sisters Jane and Lizzy, along with their husbands, at Lizzy’s stately home in England. It may look like another December, but things are about to get interesting.
Thus begins “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley”, which opens at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse this Friday for a duration of three weeks.
It’s a romantic comedy written in 2016 – “not a reworking of ‘A Christmas Carol’, it’s a very fresh story. It’s political, it’s contemporary, there is a lot to say, ”said Richard Stephens, the director and costume designer, who is beside himself with the impatience of the curtain hour.
“Pemberley,” written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, is sort of a sequel to Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice” – but it’s a standalone saga, Stephens said.
Show hours are at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Tuesdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays until December 19, with tickets on sale for $ 15 at www.pacommunityplayers.org.
At the performance hall, 1235 E. Lauridsen Blvd., members of the public must show full proof of vaccination at the door and wear masks at all times.
Set in 1815 in England, the play shows Elizabeth “Lizzy” Darcy (Sunshine Peterson) and her husband Fitzwilliam Darcy (Steven Canepa) hosting a reunion of family and temperamental guests. One is Arthur de Bourgh (Matt Forrest), an Oxford student who seems to be content with his books most of the time.
Merrin Packer portrays Mary, who, despite her awkwardness, is a thriving woman.
An observer might think that she and Arthur are compatible, considering how old-fashioned they both are. But as a tentative romance begins to blossom, a surprise guest arrives at the house, threatening everything.
Packer, an Austen enthusiast since her childhood, liked the “Pemberley” accent on the relatively unkempt Sister Bennet; “I am delighted to show the audience the fiery side of Mary,” she said.
As for Forrest, he was drawn to the role of Arthur “because, like me, we are very lonely creatures”, although a little lonely.
As Arthur finds out he has feelings for Mary, he begins to step out of his comfy box, Forrest said, and he discovers something about risk and reward.
Stephens admitted that when he first read “Pemberley” he cried a lot.
“There is no one who is more romantic than me,” said the director.
But it wasn’t just the sweetness. The play tells the story of a young woman grappling with the question: do I have to choose between a romantic life and a life where I am my own person?
“As a feminist I think this is a story I would love to tell,” Stephens said.
The director added that he, his cast and crew were starving for the theater. Stephens has dressed his actors in silk, satin and brocade worthy of the Pemberley estate; “I have an incredible cast,” he added.
“We want to take the audience to another time and another place,” Stephens said.
A message into the room leads Packer as she takes the stage: If you ever feel confined by the circumstances, she said, know that the mind is never limited.
“A healthy imagination is real freedom, in my opinion,” she said.
“Never underestimate the power of wishful thinking.”
Forrest, for his part, has his own take-out, which he hopes theatergoers share: “Love is achievable, and we all deserve it,” he said.
“Sometimes all it takes is a little push.”
Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]
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