“Jane Austen’s Christmas Cracker” Brings Holiday Cheer to Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park
Fans of Jane Austen and her wonderful stories about women. Her characters are women who struggle in society. They are intelligent women, but they have no standing in society without marriage. That was the way of things in the Regency Period. Women and Girls of the day, and every day ever since have identified with these characters, especially the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Bennett. Erin Woods is clearly an Austen fan and her play “Jane Austen’s Christmas Cracker” is a delight. The play is quite interactive as it is a Christmas Party hosted by Jane Austen herself along with her sister, Cassandra. The guests include Mrs. Bennet and two of her five daughters, Elizabeth and Lydia. Mr. Darcy is also present of course. Audience members are also guests, invited to dance and mingle with these beloved characters. And of course, the play is becoming quite a Christmas tradition.
The production is expertly directed by Amanda Lee with a delightful cast and helpful crew. The setting is the Austen home and is quite elegant but leaves plenty of room for the simple dances that are easily learned by novice dancers and guests of another time. Every performance differs slightly from the last as the actors respond to the guests and this year the audience was seated in a theatre setting. This limits the interaction quite a bit, but it also has the advantage of assuring that the audience understands the action. One need not have recently read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ to understand the developing romance between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, slightly antagonistic as lovers often are. It is also interesting to see the relationship between author Jane Austen and the characters she created!
Starring in the show (besides the patrons in attendance) are Karis McMurry as Miss Jane Austen and Lindsey Rollins as Miss Cassandra Austen. The two lovely women lead all the guests in activities. Jane Austen sets up games as well as dancing and Cassandra Austen leads us all in Christmas Caroling with excellent choices of the period that are still popular today. (The lyrics are in the program so it is no trouble to sing along) With
The Bennet family include the flighty Mrs. Bennet a lady determined to have her daughters married well and therefore unable to avoid embarrassing them at every turn. Zaneen Hotchkiss is a delightful Mrs. Bennet, a little hypochondriac and a lot chatty with an amused twinkle that never leaves her eye. The competent and practical Elizabeth Bennet is beautifully played by Jessa Schinske and the giddy young Lydia Bennet is excitingly portrayed by Ariana Sophia. Of course the Dashwood family are also in attendance and Miss Elinor Dashwood is played by Lilly McCullough while Miss Marianne Dashwood is played by Bell Reeves. Miss Anne Elliot is portrayed by Melodye Brant. These lovely young ladies drop a handkerchief or two with varying degrees of discretion to attract the attention of the gentlemen. Mr. Darcy is immune and delightfully played by Regan Rodgers and Colonel Brandon is Cam Taylor. Mr. Edward Ferrars is Tyler John Malinauskas and Captain Wentworth is Justin Marlowe. There are never enough men to go around, as many of them hide in the library drinking brandy and hoping to avoid somebody’s mother.
The actors follow the script while engaging to some extent with audience members who may say whatever comes into their heads, as one does at a party. They are quite adept at any ad-libs required and this makes it very enjoyable for patrons who are playing a game or dancing a dance. To be sure “Jane Austen’s Christmas Cracker” is the most fun one can have at a Christmas party, and should definitely be on the list of holiday events.
This is your invitation—please RSVP with a reservation for the party at 8:00 in the evening or Sunday afternoon at 2:00 in the afternoon. The show runs from December 9, 2022 through December 23, 2022 on Wednesday through Saturday night with the Sunday matinee. Visit okshakes.org for tickets or call 405-235-3700. Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park is located in the Paseo Arts District at 2920 Paseo, full of ambiance and Christmas cheer!