In an age when social media has usurped our lives, it’s refreshing to visit a time when people actually spoke to each other, and with eloquence. As in all her stories, Jane Austen’s fourth novel is an 1815 comedy of manners set in Georgian-Regency England. The title character, however, is unlike Austen’s other heroines in that Emma is pretty, smart and rich, but also strong-minded, overindulged and rather full of herself.
Audiences move below the stairs in “The Wickams: Christmas at Pemberley,” the second part of a trilogy that started with “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.
Co-written by playwrights Lauren Gunderson (“Book of Will”) and Margot Mekon (former Marin Theatre New Play Development Director) Jane Austen fans will recognize some of the characters, their foibles and charm, as inspired by Pride & Prejudice.
Indeed, the troubles between Fitzwilliam Darcy (Luigi Scottile) and George Wickham (Will Mobley) start in the famed Austen story and reach another scandalous level in Part Two about the Bennets and the Darcys.
In a letter to her sister, Lizzy (Elizabeth Darcy played by Netta Walker), Lydia Wickham, née Bennet, portrayed by Jennifer Latimore, says she is coming to Pemberley for Christmas. Lydia’s husband, George, a gambler and unscrupulous womanizer, is not welcome at the Darcy estate.
Readers familiar with Jane Austen’s novels know this author sees through surface-only charm, social pretense and people who talk about manners but are not at all well-mannered.
These readers also know to expect thinly cloaked feminism about a century before the women’s rights movements were causing waves and making some progress in England and the United States.
But given Austen’s first two books, “Sense and Sensibility” in 1811 and “Pride and Prejudice” in 1813, audiences who see “Mansfield Park,” now at Northlight Theatre, will find in Austen’s third novel, out in 1814, that practicality no longer wins arguments. They will also note that one of “Mansfield Park’s theme stresses that financial benefit doesn’t excuse slavery.
“Mansfield Park’s heroine Fanny Price is portrayed to perfection by Kayla Carter. She convincingly takes her character from a young girl trying to adapt to her relative’s moneyed and mannered life when sent there as a servant and companion, to her metamorphosis as an independent young lady who does not succumb to pressure and who is willing to lead an impoverished life.