USU performers Kaija Strong and Andrew Moody are unlikely suitors in the ongoing university production of “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly.”

LOGAN – You don’t have to be a fan of the writings of author Jane Austin to enjoy the ongoing production of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly by the Theatre Arts Department at Utah State University.

But it doesn’t hurt either.

The romantic comedy by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon highlights the further misadventures of the ladies of the Bennet family at Christmastime, two years after the events in Austin‘s novel Pride & Prejudice.

Like the 1813 novel, Miss Bennet … is a comedy of manners, satirizing the ridiculously strict social etiquette that governed public interaction between men and women during the Georgian Era. After watching this delightful show, you find yourself wondering how anyone ever got conceived between 1714 and 1830, if you know what I mean.

For those aforementioned Austin fans, Miss Bennet … is an opportunity to spend an evening with beloved characters. But Gunderson and Melcon have charmingly reimagined some of those roles and the young USU thespians skillfully bring them to life.

As the middle Bennet sister Mary, USU veteran Kaija Strong is no longer merely a wallflower. Her interests are still primarily intellectual and Ms. Strong convincingly portrays a women resigned to spinsterhood, until she meets a man with similar bookish inclinations.

Andrew Moody plays that improbable suitor who is as socially awkward as Mary. His near hysteria at being unable to woe her without advice is a little too frantic at times, but his portrayal of Arthur De Bourgh is a hilarious addition of the familiar characters from Pride & Prejudice.

As the mistress of the Pemberly estate, Mia Gatherum gives Lizzy Bennet Darcy an amusingly newfound streak of independence that manifests itself in a running gag about a Christmas tree.

As Lizzy’s husband, AJ Black delivers a performance that makes the previously haughty Darcy now agreeably bemused by his wife eccentricities.

Marin Robinson’s performance as Lydia Bennet is totally captivating. Playwrights Gunderson and Melcon have wisely left Lydia’s character much as it was in Austin’s novel and Ms. Robinson makes Lydia enchantingly flighty and flirtatious.

Kudos to costume designers Lauren Haskins and Lydia Semler for an array of gowns that allow the show’s actresses to comply with the bizarre Georgian Era dressing conventions.

Finally, Dennis Hassan has delivered a set that goes even above and beyond his trademark meticulously elaborate stage designs.

Performances of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly are slated for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8 in the Morgan Theatre in the Chase Fine Art Center on the USU campus.

A matinee performance is also slated for 2 p.m. on Dec. 4.

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