Free Compliments of our Advertisers
Sonoma County Gazette
Elizabeth (Ilana Niernberger) and Darcy (Matt Cadigan)
Elizabeth (Ilana Niernberger) and Darcy (Matt Cadigan) are overjoyed to see family arrive. Photo by Jeff Thomas.

See This Gem!
'Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley' 
at Spreckels Theatre Co.

Nov 25, 2019
by Jeanie K. Smith , San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle


How many ways can I say “delightful” and “charming,” or “funny” and “sweet”? All those and all their synonyms apply to the wonderful production of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley  currently playing at Spreckels Performing Arts Center. A terrific cast and sprightly staging liven up the intimate Condiotti theater, for a thoroughly entertaining show that will put you in the holiday spirit without corn or treacle.

If you’re at all familiar with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, you’ll recognize the first two characters we meet in Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon’s imagined sequel — Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy (Ilana Niernberger and Matt Cadigan), newly married and now residing on the extensive Darcy estate, blissfully happy after their previously rocky road to romance and marriage. Much to Darcy’s surprise, his wife has installed an actual tree in the drawing room, anticipating Christmas with a new tradition. Jokes abound regarding the tree, as it’s a few years yet before Charles Dickens popularizes the idea in A Christmas Carol

The four Bennet sisters (L-R): Mary (Karina Pugh), Lydia (Ella Park), Jane (Allie Nordby) and Lizzie (Ilana Niernberger). Photo by Jeff Thomas.The Darcys also anticipate the arrival of the Bennet sisters and parents for holiday celebrations— first to come are pregnant Jane (Allie Nordby) and her husband Charles Bingley (Evan Held), with middle sister Mary Bennet (Karina Pugh) in tow. Still-single Mary, bookish and tethered to her pianoforte, appears resigned to spinsterhood although she laments that she never chose that life for herself. Happily married Jane and Elizabeth murmur dissent, but potential mates might be hard to find for one such as Mary.

Arthur (Zane Walters) and Mary (Karina Pugh) bond over books. Photo by Jeff Thomas.

Mr. Darcy announces he invited a cousin for the holidays, one Arthur de Bourgh (Zane Walters), newly titled heir to the de Bourgh estate after the death of his aunt, Lady Catherine. Darcy hasn’t seen him in years, but wants to welcome him as they’ll now be neighbors. As fate would have it, de Bourgh arrives when no one is around — except Mary.  As they discover common interests in books, philosophy, science, maps and music, we can see where this is headed, and it’s all great fun — until obstacles also arrive. 

Anne (Taylor Diffenderfer) and Lydia (Ella Park) share some surprises. Photo by Jeff Thomas.Enter Lydia (Ella Park), younger sister full of flirtatious vigor, who creates quite a mess of the budding romance. And if that weren’t enough, the sudden appearance of Anne de Bourgh (Taylor Diffenderfer), cousin to Arthur and a former would-be fiancee of Darcy’s, throws everything into question with a dramatic ending to Act one.

Great worry — and hilarity — ensues in Act two, as the obstacles must be sorted for our young romance to proceed. No spoilers, except to say that it IS a comedy, and a happy ending might be expected; satisfaction comes with seeing how it’s managed.

Director  Sheri Lee Miller  nicely matches actors to characters, and the entire ensemble gives excellent portrayals of personalities, not caricatures, keeping it all believable while skillfully delivering the comedy. Pugh as Mary and Park as Lydia are young actresses to watch, and Walters does an exceptional turn as nerdy but heart-filled Arthur; the character’s interpretation here suits the script much better than in other productions I’ve seen. 

Attractive period set design by  Elizabeth Bazzano   transitions prettily from genteel to decorated, and makes good use of the small stage. Costumes by Pamela Johnson say volumes about the various female characters and capture period with verve. Lighting by . Eddy Hansen befits the romantic comedy style of the piece, and Jessica Johnson’s  sound design cleverly inserts pianoforte playing. 

Do yourself a favor and see this gem this season, with its stunning cast and joyful celebration of the holidays and yes, true love.

Evan Held as Charles Bingley, soon-to-be father. Photo by Jeff Thomas.Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley

By Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon.
Presented by Spreckels Theatre Company
Through Dec. 15, 2019

Thu Dec. 12 and Fri/Sat at 7:30pm, Sun at 2:00pm

Tickets: $12-26; Senior, student and under-18 discounts

Spreckels Theatre Company

Bette Condiotti Experimental Theatre, Spreckels Performing Arts Center

5409 Snyder Lane

Rohnert Park, CA 94928

(707) 588-3400

Sonoma County Theatre Review


Login to Make a Comment

Please support our sponsors:

Local Guide for takeout food

Sonoma County Restaurants who offer Take-Out Food during the Corona Virus Shelter-in-Place.
NOT on our LIST & MAP? Get LISTED:

Shelter-in-Place Sonoma County Business Directory - Coronavirus-COVID-19 Mandate.

Shelter-in-Place Sonoma County Business Directory - Coronavirus-COVID-19 Mandate. This is a work-in-process. PLEASE HELP US by sending missing info to

Fine Tree Care - Sonoma County Tree Services

Visit Fine Tree Care WEBSITE for a List of our SERVICES - Testimonials and to request a FREE Estimate

Flip through the pages of the print edition of the 2020 Sonoma County Gardeners Resource Guide

Your 2020 GUIDE to support locally-owned garden businesses and natural landscaping practices.

LOCAL GUIDE to Cannabis Dispensaries and Delivery Services, Sonoma County & Beyond.

LOCAL GUIDE to Cannabis Dispensaries and Delivery Services, Sonoma County & Beyond.All dispensaries have verified their information.