Theater Review: GEORGIANA AND KITTY: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY (Marin Theatre Company)

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by Harvey Perr on December 8, 2021

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area

CHRISTMAS AT PEM-BAH-LEY

Let me start off by saying that I belong to that camp that would like to see a moratorium on all things Jane Austen and an edict to return to her novels would be the best way to start to do that. I happen to feel that, good intentions towards one side, it is presumptuous of Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, the authors of Georgiana & Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley,  to think they could imagine where Austen would have taken her characters from Pride and Prejudice and, even more presumptuous to attempt to replicate Austen’s sharp and acerbic wit with soap operatics more reminiscent of Downton Abbey. Not having seen the earlier excursions into Austen territory, it is hard to say if this, the third in a series, is a falling off from the first two, or if I might have felt exactly the same way about those productions as I did about this newest incarnation.

Lauren Spencer as Georgiana Darcy (left) and Zahan F. Mehta as Henry Grey

The Marin Theater Company production is directed by Meredith McDonough who is very good at creating stage pictures but who, in between her fetching tableaux, seems uninterested in moving the action forward in any telling way. The actors don’t help, although Emilie Whelan, in the role of Kitty. has mastered the art of mugging and therefore gets the audience’s attention and approval. So, when there is next to nothing on the stage to engage one, then one tends to let one’s eyes roam around the stage to find something that will.

Lauren Spencer as Georgiana Darcy (left), Alicia M. P. Nelson as Margaret O’Brien,
Aidaa Peerzada as Emily Grey and Madeline Rouverol as Sarah Darcy

And I noticed that every time my eyes focused on an actress playing Elizabeth Bennett Darcy — her name is Laura Odeh — she was totally in character, she wore her clothes as if she was born to wear them and not just donning a pretty costume, and she seemed to know that she was in the rooms of a very real Pemberley and not on a set and knew exactly where the other rooms in the house were, and, without losing any sense of style or theatrical flair, seemed a totally real person in a totally real place. One kept hoping that her fellow actors would have been swept up in her generous sense of truth and might have responded in kind. But Laura Odeh was clearly on her own.

Emilie Whelan as Kitty Bennet (left) and Adam Magill as Thomas O’Brien

And so, as often happens, in the midst of an otherwise unpleasant circumstance, an actor comes to the rescue and Ms. Oden is that actor and it is sad to report that she, in this version, is not a central character. But I look forward to seeing her again in a role and play worthy of her estimable talent. Until then, I wish everyone a merrier Christmas than this one at Pemberley.

Thomas O’Brien (Adam Magill), left, and Henry Grey (Zahan F. Mehta)

photos by Kevin Berne

Kitty Bennet (Emilie Whelan), left, and Georgiana Darcy (Lauren Spencer)

Georgiana & Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley
Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley
ends on December 19, 2021
on demand thru January 2, 2022
for tickets, call (415) 388-5208 or visit MTC

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