The Best Thing You Can Do Today: Get your tickets for a Jane Austen(ish) Christmas
If you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s wise and witty 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice and the countless romcoms it spawned on movies and TV, then you already know the world being conjured up in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, opening tonight in previews at American Stage. In this comic “sequel” to the Austen classic, playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon imagine a Christmas celebration at the splendiferous country estate of Elizabeth Bennet and her now-husband Lord Darcy, where we not only find out how marriage is working out for those two romantic sparring partners, we also get a fresh take on “bookish” younger sister Mary, who turns out to be a lot feistier than even Jane Austen might have imagined.
Even if you’re not an Austen fan, there are plenty of reasons to see Miss Bennet. The play, which is making its Tampa Bay premiere at American Stage, will be among the 10 most-produced in the U.S. this year; Gunderson is the country’s most-produced living playwright; and the focus on Mary sheds light on what American Stage Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte calls “an unlikely but inspiring 19th century female heroine who is discovering how to live a full life on her own terms.”
Best reason of all: Mary is being played by Jenny Lester, whose furiously brilliant performance in last season’s Bad Jews was a much-deserved award-winner.
Note: The play’s reputation must have preceded it. Many of this week’s performances, including tonight’s preview, are sold out. But there are plenty of opportunities to see it during its month-long run, so be sure to call the box office to find a date that works for you. American Stage, 163 3rd St. N., St. Petersburg, 11/28-12/30, 727-823-PLAY, americanstage.com