Procrastinatrix said she wanted a review of the totally silly Christmas play my sister and I just saw (while wearing matching Christmas sweatshirts!). It’s essentially Pride and Prejudice fanfic, but well-written fanfic. So good in fact that I kind of want to end by suggesting a minor rewrite and casting for the Indian version.
And that’s essentially what this play felt like. Fun, yes. Very very enjoyable. But not exactly great deep layered wise groundbreaking intense work. More just “hey, this is fun! And people will buy tickets for it because you can get the suckers to watch anything at Christmas time!”
Which was good for me, because the reason this play would not work usually is that it is very much the kind of story I like and maybe not many other people. It’s all about a romance and misunderstandings and sisters fighting and making up and then ending happy-happy with a song around the piano. And if it takes sticking a Christmas tree in the plot to get folks to watch it, fine by me!
It also worked for me because it was pretty close to the spirit of the characters from the book. Darcy and Lizzie tease each other and flirt and Darcy is a little stiff with other people but also understanding. The Bingleys are cheerful and happy and kind about everything. Lydia is horrible. And Mary ends up the heroine, after having developed in a direction that makes sense based on what we already knew of her.
Mary, our heroine, is just shameless in terms of trying to gain sympathy of the kind of people who would be obsessed with Pride and Prejudice to the point of seeing a play based on it. That is, intense intelligent bookish young woman (or older woman). In fact, she was such shameless fan service that my sister and were gripping each other’s hands in tension for most of the play because we were SO WORRIED about her.
Oh, and the production we saw was actually really really good. The cast were all professionals with impressive credentials, there was some fun use of props and things, just generally well-done all around. I would recommend it, but the last performance is tomorrow afternoon so it won’t make much difference.
Okay, you ready for the plot? The silly silly fan service plot? And I am going to even put up a SPOILERS warning, just in case someone stumbles across this post while considering whether or not to buy tickets to their own local production.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
Two years after Pride and Prejudice the novel took place, the Darcys are preparing to entertain at Pemberley at Christmas. They have invited Jane and Mr. Bingley, and Mary and Lydia. And then Mr. Darcy surprises Lizzie by confessing that he also invited his distant cousin, Arthur De Bourgh. Lady Catherine just died and all the property now falls to him. He has gone from a scholarly Oxford type who loves to study everything to a Lord, and the owner of the magnificent Roseing house (yes, this does mean he will have to put up with Mr. Collins as a neighbor, but otherwise it’s pretty great!).
Mary is our heroine. In the novel, she was the one who always droned on about books and was far too serious and not quick or witty or pretty. And was a terrible pianist who insisted on playing for everyone and embarrassed the family at parties. But the play suggests that, two years later, she has gained maturity and confidence in herself. She has been living at home alone with her parents, reading and practicing piano and pursuing her own pursuits as much as she wanted and now she is not the same Mary that was always such a bore and a burden.
The problem of course is that her sisters still see her that way. Lizzie and Jane ignore her and chatter and flirt with their husbands and decorate the house and are generally joyful while Mary struggles to find her place in the conversation and to be noticed. Mr. Darcy is kind to her and says he sees her and appreciates her, and she is beginning to find a way to convince her sisters that she is not the Mary they remember, culminating in playing a complex piano piece expertly, showing that she is no longer that awkward girl who merely pretended accomplishments. And then Lord Arthur De Bourgh arrives! They meet in the library and discover they have both been reading the same fascinating book on philosophy. They babble about books and confess that they both feel at a loss in society and crowds. All is perfect, and then Lydia arrives.
Bit of a redemption for Lydia as well. Mary knows from her letters to their mother that she is not as happy in her marriage as she pretends to be, but Lydia denies it. On the other hand, she also immediately begins pursuing Lord Arthur. He ignores her, so she puts a letter in one of his books, which of course Mary finds and thinks it is from him to her and is all happy. They spend more and more time talking together and finally Lord Arthur seeks out Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy to ask advice on what he should do about these strange things he is feeling and what is happening to him. Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy are both delighted to advice him and reassure him that he is just in love, and the simplest thing to do is write her a letter expressing his feelings, and also saying something about her eyes, “they are nice, or sparkling, or nice. Something!”
Lord Arthur writes his letter, Lydia finds it and assumes it is for her, Mary is furious, Arthur explains it really was for her, and just as things look like they are working out, Lady Anne De Bourgh arrives! And announces that she and Arthur are engaged! Mary is furious and humiliated and rushes out, Arthur is stunned and doesn’t know what to say, INTERMISSION
In the second half, Arthur talks to Lady Anne, and she explains that they are essentially engaged because her mother always wished it, and it would help keep the property in the family, and it just makes sense, and Arthur is too shy and confused and unused to the world to challenge this. He talks to Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy again and they try to encourage him to at least talk to Mary before leaving her. Mary talks to her sisters who at first try to cheer her up but then come to understand both that she is in the middle of a love affair, and that she needs their help. They also block Arthur from leaving and maneuver him into talking to Mary again. Mary blasts him for being a coward, for not even trying to marry for love, for not saying “no” to Lady Anne. And with her encouragement, he finally does! And suggests an alternative happy ending, Lady Anne can stay at Roseings as long as she likes, and can marry whoever she likes (with her large inheritance ensuring her suitors). And he will marry who he likes, Mary.
Lydia also gets her life solved, her sisters come to understand that she is deeply unhappy in her marriage, and terribly lonely in Bath. Jane invites her to come stay with them after the baby is born (did I mention Jane is pregnant?). And at the end, it is implied she will also be visiting with Lady Anne a lot in order to help her make her way in society.
So, everyone is happy! Mary gets to marry a nice man who understands her, and also happens to be a Lord and filthy rich (suck it Lydia! Mary married better than you, despite all her reading and lack of flirting!). Lydia is on the road to redemption and maturity. Lady Anne gets to go to London and flirt with people. The Darcys and Bingleys are just as in love as ever 2 years down the line. And the new character, Lord Arthur, gets to have some backbone and a wife who likes him and likes that he is fascinated by everything and not the usual landed lord of the manor type.
Now, this obviously could very easily be made into an Indian film, right? The awkward book loving overlooked middle sister, between the sparkling wise beautiful older sisters and the flirty flighty younger sisters, the one who is supposed to be the spinster that stays home with the parents the rest of her life, ends up finding her way to falling in love with a very rich and handsome young man who also happens to be bookloving and uncomfortable in social settings.
All we have to do is set it at a wedding instead of at Christmas. We can bring in Kitty (the other sister who isn’t in this play) as the bride. Jane and Lizzie are the two oldest, married very happily and well, we can cut down on the drama and just say that Jane married a nice man in a semi-arranged marriage and Lizzie married his best friend. With all the proper family approvals and so on, both couples are very in love after taking their time to get to know each other before confirming their engagements at a nice mature age. Lydia eloped as a teenager, the family gave the approval later because they had no other choice, but there is still a coldness with her husband. And now Kitty is marrying young too, to her college boyfriend. And somehow Mary got lost in the middle of it all, so awkward that no one ever fell in love with her, and the family never really bothered to try to find someone for her because she wasn’t like the other girls and they thought she was happy just staying at home with her books.
Lizzie is hosting the wedding in her big house in the country (Mr. Darcy’s ancestral property that they don’t often use since he has a good engineering job), everyone is coming to her, and at the last moment Mr. Darcy invites his cousin who has just inherited a nearby large property and the position as village headman that comes with it. And after that it all plays out as in the play, Lydia arrives without her husband and is horrible, no one notices Mary until she makes a fuss and forces them to notice her (let’s say she shows them that she really is a trained classical singer now, and Lord Arthur walks in just as she is stunning them with her abilities). She and Lord Arthur talk about books and science and stuff like that, he loves her mind, Lydia comes between them, and then Lady Anne arrives and announces she is Lord Arthur’s cousin and therefore assumed fiancee. And then the older couples take a hand and help encourage Lord Arthur to stand up to Lady Anne and confess his love to Mary.
I’m thinking it should be a southern set film with maybe a southern cast. How about Shalini as Lizzie, Samantha as Jane, Ajith as Darcy, and Naga Chaitanya as Bingley? And Sai can be Mary, dresses in play saris and never wears make-up or jewelry and is very abrupt in direct in how she talks, unlike her charming sisters. Oh right, also Lydia. I guess Keerthy Suresh can be Lydia. And Anushka Shetty can be Lady Anne, because that’s the funnest role, sweeping around ordering people about.
And the hero is obviously Nani. He can play shy and awkward and enthusiastic sometimes, and scared of women and social settings, and throw in a little slapstic as well, no problem.
What do you think? Do you want to see this play? And/or, do you want to see this movie?