"Georgiana & Kitty" is such fun that even the heating system at Jungle Theater is into it.
On the night I saw "G&K," the low hum of the system stopped right at the crucial moment when Georgiana (Marisa B. Tejeda) hears her beloved Henry (Dustin Bronson) convey that "my wish is for a song that will never end." It's the perfect declaration, suited to both their music-loving hearts and the restrained romance of Jane Austen, whose "Pride and Prejudice" inspired the play.
Since it's Austen, there are bumps in the road, even if Georgiana and Henry are clearly perfect for each other because of their shared affection for contrapuntal musical harmonics. Georgiana's brother, Fitzwilliam Darcy, disapproves of Henry, the biggest drama queen in a show that has multiple contenders. And Georgiana longs to make her mark as a musician in a time when there is no such thing as a female composer/soloist.
"G&K," Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon's third holiday-themed Austen romcom, honors the spirit of the English novelist and it's still set in her early-1800s era. But it carries it forward, gently urging proto-feminism on its characters. The dialogue is cleverly Austen-tatious ("I'll be happy to forgive him when he becomes forgivable") but Gunderson and Melcon nudge the play's women toward an equal future that we're not quite living in yet.
"We must create a space for ourselves," fiery Georgiana says.
One of the delights of "G&K" is that it's not just woman-forward but women-forward. Each of the five Bennet sisters is clothed in a different garden hue, as if to alert us that they are very different people. One scene treats us to all five of them expressing different views on how Georgiana should deal with a dilemma — and each one could be right.
Figuring out how to be a human is complicated in "G&K." That's also true in Austen's work, but where she usually keeps readers in the dark about the complicated back stories that motivate her characters to screw up their love lives, "G&K" lets us in on those back stories. We know things the characters don't and, as a result, the play gives us time to ponder not just what (often wrong) moves the characters will make but why they're making them.
Tejeda and Becca Hart are terrific as the titular sisters-in-law, who announce their affection right away, with Georgiana saying, "I'm so glad your sister married my brother" and Kitty replying, "It was thoughtful of them."
The nine actors feel very much like an ensemble, gracefully entering the world of the piece, but one standout is Bronson, finding all the laughs in his comic character while giving him dignity and soul.
Because Georgiana and Henry have a true meeting of minds, this is a romantic play with genuine romance. And, because Georgiana and pal/colleague Kitty have big dreams that women such as director Chloé Zhao, playwright Lynn Nottage and soccer player Megan Rapinoe might relate to, it's a period play that speaks to today.
'Georgiana & Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley'
Who: By Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon. Directed by Christina Baldwin and Angela Timberman.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun., ends Dec. 23.
Where: 2951 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls.
Tickets: $45 suggested, but pay-as-you-are, 612-822-7063 or jungletheater.org.