Needles of the spruce shake off and litter the base of the Christmas tree. There in the middle of Pemberley house, a cut of nature stands in a spot of water dressed for the occasion. The awkwardness is centre stage.
The dressing of the tree branches cover one side with trimming tassels ripped off a bedsheet. That look of old adding to that backstory of being a thrown together start of a new tradition. It’s hanging there over on the left branch waiting to fall down. Not an issue really. What is is staring at the tree skirt both dangling off a lower branch and trying to cover up the water pot. Its visual kicking back, looming under the green spruce until intermission follows and it covers up the modesty of those trunk ankles.
Mister Fitzwilliam Darcy (Brian Simmons), while not always off snifting with Charles Bingley (Bradley Shane Gilmore) in the cellar with the scotch, brandy and whatever else ferments, is charming in how he rather enjoys the words coming out of his mouth, gnawing at the ever present tension in the air. The boisterous eye bulge at developments shows off a hunger in the intrigue of what may happen at Pemberley.
Mary Bennet (Alex George) and Arthur de Bourgh (Brian Covert) start off diametrically opposite one another. Bennet is a confident, assured person. de Bourgh is a bag of jitters framed in a smart suit. They dance with their words in a deliberate clunky manner of those trying not to shatter too much of social norms. Each one taking enough stumbles or steps to lighten the load of the other before they meet in the middle of the final act and conclude with an opening to the new world. They are distant in that proper way, and it’s fun watching them navigate through the tall grass of their society.
As the Christmas tree is outstanding in its call to being out of place, so it is that Christmas at Pemberley takes with the lot of its residents and guests. Quick is the wit as the Bennet sisters meet again and juggle the various expectations of their standing of where society expects of them. As each guest crosses the threshold they remark about the tree, and then with a scent of self-awareness, dilly about their situation. It’s a question of growth and comfort to find one’s belonging at the same time of knowing certain things cannot or will not budge, so the next best next is to embrace it and work it to your wrenching stomach. Revelations do not appear until they stand and open themselves up, even if that meant a little nudge or note of experience from inquisitive relatives.
Directed by Jade Ellis, Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson & Margot Melcon is hanging off of that Jane Austen tongue. The words, the manner, the very nature of proprietary in one’s comport, is delicious. Hints of openness, of exploring one’s emotions soon drown out in a deluge of over-examination and purple prose, that at the speed with which it flies out is no longer stuffy. The heart beats fast and the sweat trickles from the brow and the mouth moves ever faster to cover up the palpitations. Nerves step aside and the banter escalates as those visiting Pemberley relish in the safety of a vocabulary blanket.
With 15 minutes of intermission (no idea if tea and cucumber sangas were properly involved out there in the lobby) the entire night ends after two and a half hours. Knee to stage along the rug of the 28 December 2018 performance by Flashback Theater Company at their Black Box theatre.
Reviewed on Monday, 31 December 2018