Thursday, December 1, 2016

"Miss Bennet" ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

This reviewer drove through the traffic to Marin Theater Company with a sense of dread at having to see yet another Jane Austen story. Enough English foppery, enough aristocrats, enough, enough enough! But surprise, oh ye Doubting Douglas! The World Premiere of Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon's "Miss Bennet" reveals the very reason we go to the theater: to be surprised and elated at the power of great writing and beautiful acting.

Where "Pride and Prejudice" stopped, Gunderson and Melcon take over. The last remaining daughter, Mary Bennet, unmarried and consigned to a rural life where her only companions are her books and her pianoforte, has arrived for a family Christmas at Pemberley, the estate where elder sister Lizzie has settled with her husband Mr. Darcy. We find that Mary, boring and unappetizing where Jane Austen left her, has received a shot of Lauren Gunderson and become a modern, capable, brilliant and attractively independent female.

Martha Brigham plays Mary to our delight, alongside Adam Magill as her equally out-of-place romantic interest Arthur de Bourgh. Magill is a young Tim Burton, tall and possessed of a cornucopia of facial expressions, mostly variations on the theme of bewilderment.

Brigham brings Mary a delightful wistfulness under her guise as resigned spinster. That Mary and Arthur will get together is unquestioned; the question is can these romantic bumbleheads pull it off in only two acts.

We love the entire cast. The two married brothers-in-law, Mr. Darcy (Joseph Patrick O'Malley) and Mr. Bingley (Thomas Gorrebeeck) are perfect as gentlemen itching to have anything at all to do. They delight in taking poor Arthur under their wing. Laura Odeh plays Anne de Bourgh, who in the Jane Austen story was jilted by Mr. Darcy when he chose to marry Lizzie Bennet. Now, she is back and about to get jilted again, but not until she gets in her licks.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division, recently relocated into the Two No-Trump Tower, awards "Miss Bennet" Four Stars. Everything works. Acting, directing (Meredith McDonough), sets (Erik Flatmo) and costumes (Callie Floor) could not be better. Those with November hangovers can receive a welcome December tonic at Marin Theater Company.

"Miss Bennet"
Marin Theater Company
397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley
Dec. 3 through Dec. 18

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