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After being disrupted by a wildfire and the pandemic, a South Coast theater company gets Jane Austen's popular characters back on stage

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Photo By Zach Mendez/Ensemble Theater Company
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"The Wickhams: Christmas At Pemberely" cast members Rebecca Mozo, Adam Poss, Chelsea Kurtz and Kyle T. Hester. The Jane Austen-based original play opens Saturday night in Santa Barbara.

Ensemble Theater Company opens The Wickhams: Christmas At Pemberley Saturday.

Some of the classic characters from Jane Austen’s novels are returning to the stage in Santa Barbara. It hasn’t been easy for Mr. Darcy, Lizzy, Lydia and company. First the Thomas Fire, and then the pandemic disrupted the Ensemble Theater Company’s plans for shows based on Austen’s works.

But, Ensemble Theater Company Artistic Director Jonathan Fox says we’ll see Mr. Darcy and his wife Elizabeth on stage with the romantic holiday season comedy The Wickhams: Christmas At Pemberley.

"This is the second part of a trilogy of original plays based on Jane Austen's characters," said Fox.

The original story features some of Austen’s most famous characters, as well as some new ones.

Michael Butler is the show's director. "It's (set) two years after the end of Pride and Prejudice." said Butler. But, he says it's not just about Austen's characters. It includes drama and romance involving the estate's staff, like what you see in the hit PBS television series Downtown Abbey.

Adam Poss plays Mr. Darcy, the character who marries Elizabeth Bennett in Austen’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice.

"I think there's a little bit of creative license, because this is a couple years after the end of Pride and Prejudice," said Poss. "We get to see him (Mr. Darcy) settling into married life, a little more playful, and a little more relaxed that we've been used to."

But, this original play centers around Lydia Bennett, the scandalous Bennett sister who runs off of Mr. Wickham. All is saved when their marriage is arranged. She’s supposed to be a bit older, and slightly more mature in this play. She writes her sister Elizabeth that she’s coming to visit at Christmas.

Chelsea Kurtz plays Lydia. "She is a well beloved character, but she isn't given as much attention as say Jane or Elizabeth." said Kurtz. "Getting to bring her to life has been a total delight."

Director Michael Butler says after everything we’ve been through in the last year, the play is something intended to make audiences smile.

The Wickhams: Christmas At Pemberly premieres Saturday night, and runs through December 19. Audiences at Santa Barbara’s New Vic Theater most present proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the performance.