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A Return to Christmas at Pemberley, This Time With The Wickhams [UPDATED]

Claire Hart-Palumbo plays the housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds
Claire Hart-Palumbo plays the housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds
Photo by Bryan Kaplun
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Update 11-22-19: Because of high demand with multiple performances already sold out, Main Street Theater has added to performances to The Wickhams run. They are Sunday, December 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday December 14 at 3 p.m.

Fans of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon's previous adaptation of Austen's characters in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley can rejoice: the play-writing duo is bringing a new episode to Main Street Theater for the holiday season.

And its setting is the same Christmas holiday in 1815 and Darcy estate as the first Christmas at Pemberley, albeit in a different part of the house and with some new characters.

The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley goes downstairs in Mr. Darcy's (Alan Brincks) household where the reprehensible Mr. Wickham (Blake Weir) is hiding out because Darcy can't stand him, while his wife, the giddy and light-headed Lydia (Skyler Sinclair) and the rest of the family enjoy the holiday upstairs.

Claire Hart-Palumbo plays Mrs. Reynolds who has known Mr. Wickham and Mr. Darcy since they were boys and has a soft spot for each of them. Mrs. Reynolds is the linchpin that connects the below stairs characters and certain members of the family, she says.

"Wickham shows up at the servants hall because he knows Mrs. Reynolds will take him in," Hart- Palumbo says. "They know they have to keep this from Darcy." Darcy, as Pride and Prejudice readers know, forced George Wickham to marry Lydia after he eloped with her with no intention of marrying her.

Unfortunately Wickham hasn't improved much since marriage. And the reason he's shown up is not that he's desperately in love with his wife and can't be parted from her during the holidays, but because creditors are at his heels again and he can count on the family bailing him out for Lydia's sake, Hart-Palumbo says.

"Lydia is caught in this awful marriage," Hart-Palumbo says, and now her sister Elizabeth Darcy is second-guessing the forced union.

In the usual style of this kind of story, a letter is discovered and this letter has a secret in it that will change everything, Hart-Palumbo says.

Of course, with people living in such close quarters — and add in the other downstairs servants including a new serving girl Cassie and a romantic groomsman named Brian — the attempt to keep all this a secret predictably fails.

Given the state of the Wickhams' marriage and finances, it's not surprising when Hart-Palumbo says this is a somewhat darker play than its Miss Bennet predecessor. "If they’re coming expecting just a romp and a laugh it’s a little more like gallows humor. This one has a little more sardonic edge. This has got a little more bite to it."

One other thing to look forward to. The magnificent Christmas tree that was the topic of so much conversation in the Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, makes a reappearance, Hart-Palumbo says. "It's dragged through the servants hall on its way up to the [upstaris] library. "

Performances are scheduled for November 23 through December 22 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays at Main Street Theater - Rice Village, 2540 Times Boulevard. For information call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com. $36-$55.

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