‘Tis the season to take a little break from politics, controversies and daily life challenges.
A good fix is Georgiana and Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley at Northlight Theatre.
It’s the third and last in a trilogy based on the characters of Jane Austen but creatively adapted in a new story by two skilled and imaginative playwrights.
It has the engaging banter of social fabric in the tradition of Austen but has meat on the bones too, with the addition of a feminist theme.
The backdrop is Christmas but the holiday plays little part in the activities of the play. A small Christmas tree is the only seasonal decoration and, as one character says, as if the tree is a novelty, “We brought a little of the outside in.”
Georgiana and Kitty is not another Christmas play in December. It is a touching and entertaining drama about family relationships and the influence and importance of friendship.
The treat of the production is appreciating the amazing talent and complementary interpretations of the actors to each other and to their roles. What an ensemble! If for no other reason, watching them is recommendation for the experience.
It is not ruining the drama to say “All’s well that ends well.” After all, it is in the holiday spirit. But the family bickering, the sisterly competitions and the misunderstood interferences bring zest to the stage.
Georgiana Darcy (Janyce Caraballo), the non-sister in the play, is a shy but talented musician. She is dominated by her brother, Fitzwilliam Darcy (Yousof Sultani) who means no harm but interferes in her life, thinking he’s fulfilling the obligations and love of an older brother.
Georgiana changes before us into a powerful and talented women who becomes the standard-bearer of feminist strength, an action that brings the drama into a strong thematic statement, increasingly satisfactorily in the second half.
Kitty Bennet (Samantha Newcomb) is Georgiana’s best friend and her stalwart supporter. Her vitality and unwavering support show how much more people can do with someone backing them up and encouraging their aspirations.
Henry Gray (Erik Hellman) is appealing as both the vulnerable bachelor who feels much too strongly that he must fulfill his social obligations and the confident man who becomes the most obvious example of “All’s well that ends well.”
Every actor in this production deserves kudos. The best reason for seeing Georgianna and Kitty is to watch them take on their individual roles and then so richly interact with each other.
Thomas O’Brien (Nate Santana), Gray’s friend, charms everyone from the moment he enters the house at Pemberley until the end, when he’s mostly responsible for the happy ending.
Then there are the sisters.
Lydia Wickham (Preeti Thaker) always seems to say or do the wrong thing, but nevertheless is accepted for who she is.
Mary Bennett (Andrea San Miguel) is the bookish intellectual who still finds her way to be part of this social family.
Jane Bingley (Emma Jo Boyden), pregnant and unassuming, is the one sister who seems to accommodate social expectations.
Elizabeth Darcy (Amanda Drinkall), the wife of Fitzwilliam Darcy, surprises us with her behind-the-scenes arguments with her husband, yet still shows how much in love they are.
The characters in Georgianna and Kitty are based on Austen’s beloved creations but even in keeping the time period the same, they develop into a set of people giving us a heartwarming and touching perspective on contemporary friendship and family life.
Georgiana and Kitty is playing at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd. in Skokie, through Dec. 24. Box office is 847-673-6300 and the website is northlight.org