Review | ‘The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley’

Ensemble Theatre Presents Jane Austen Sequel

Credit: Zach Mendez

The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley offers, among other things, a test of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s home security system. While it would be poor form to reveal many of the show’s plot twists, it’s fair to say that Pemberley’s intruder alarms fail. George Wickham (Kyle T. Hester) is at the top of Elizabeth and Darcy’s “do not admit” list, but he shows up regardless and turns out to be the family’s most lively holiday visitor.

As the second installment in a projected trilogy of plays based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, The Wickhams is less stand-alone than Miss Bennet, the first of the Christmas at Pemberley plays. Where Miss Bennet enjoyed the advantage of focusing on Mary, Pride’s only underwritten sister, The Wickhams must reconcile the playwrights’ invention with two of Austen’s most memorable characters, Lydia Bennet (Chelsea Kurtz) and the rake George Wickham. While Kurtz delivers a splendid performance as the spirited Lydia, it’s Hester’s Wickham that had the audience riveted. Whether he’s receiving the ministrations of Mrs. Reynolds (Nike Doukas), flirting with Cassie (Kodi Jackman), or crossing verbal swords with either Darcy (Adam Poss) or Brian (Will Block), we can’t take our eyes off him. It’s quite a feat, given the pride of place usually accorded to Elizabeth Bennet Darcy (Rebecca Mozo) in the Austen universe. 

With the action taking place on the lower floor of Pemberley (or occasionally on the staircase or the kitchen table), we are far from the scene of either the first installment of the trilogy or the original novel. Whether or not this shift succeeds in capturing Austen’s romantic comedy magic and transferring it to the lower orders will depend to an extent on how audience members receive the resolution. For those who take Austen to be a conservative supporter of firm boundaries between the social classes, there will be one sense of the ending, and for those who believe she was a progressive before her time, there will be another. One thing is sure, however — the saga of Christmas at Pemberley is not over yet. Various cliffhangers leave plenty of room for further developments in Part Three.


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