In this season of entertainments that cater to our appetite for cozy tradition (I’m talking about you, Nutcracker, Messiah and Christmas Carol), two shows next weekend hit the nostalgia nerve from a different angle, adding a holiday-themed sequel to a classic love story.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen, 200 years dead, has become a major star in our own era. Not only are all her books still in print, with worldwide readership in the millions, but the hunger for all things Jane keeps producing big- and small-screen adaptations and spinoffs, from straight-up versions to quirky retakes like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to fan-fiction that continues the plot after the last chapter ends.

An example of the latter is Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, which invents an afterlife for the folks in Pride and Prejudice. Staged readings, sumptuously costumed, are performed this weekend by both Silverthorne Theater Company in the Valley and Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires in a reprise of their 2017 production.

The play takes place two years after the wedding of the novel’s spirted protagonist, Elizabeth, to the enigmatic Mr. Darcy, when the couple throw a party at Pemberley, the Darcy estate, for many of the novel’s characters. One of these is Mary, the nerdiest of the five Bennet sisters – “a very dull gal,” as she’s described in Daniel Elihu Kramer’s cyber-spin Pride@Prejudice – whom Austen clearly marked for lifelong spinsterhood.

But wait! Into this gathering comes an invented character, Arthur de Bourgh, young nephew of the book’s haughty Lady Catherine and recent inheritor of her rich estate. As “a single man in possession of a good fortune” he “must be in want of a wife,” and since he, like Mary, is hapless and wonky, need I say more?

In their authors’ notes, Gunderson and Melcon “encourage diverse casting – Jane Austen belongs to everyone.” Responding to this cue, both casts feature a diversity of performers, both familiar faces and newcomers to the respective companies.

Silverthorne’s version, with a single performance on Saturday, takes place at the appropriately historic Deerfield Inn – “the perfect setting,” says director Lucinda Kidder, “as the young actors capture the wry humor of Austen’s favorite dysfunctional family.”

Dec. 17 at 3pm, 81 Old Main Street, Deerfield. Tickets & info here

Dec. 16-18 at Shakespeare & Company, Lenox. Tickets & info here.

Photos by Olivia Winslow from
Shakespeare & Company’s 2017 production


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