(Above: Sabrina Gross and Joseph Workman take lead roles in Oregon Contemporary Theatre’s holiday production of Christmas at Pemberley)

By Randi Bjornstad

The Jane Austen craze isn’t over yet, and Oregon Contemporary Theatre is doing its part to keep the interest in the characters from Pride and Prejudice and its sister books in the public eye.

Bring on Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, a play by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon that shifts the spotlight from Elizabeth Bennet to middle sister Mary, who’s tired of being the biddable one and decides to become her real self.

Her efforts are aided by a Christmas gathering at Pemberley, where Mary’s prospects for intellectual stimulation, new opportunity — and maybe even romantic attraction — suddenly seem bright indeed.

Christmas at Pemberley has been a popular one on stages throughout the country this year, although OCT’s production artistic director Craig Willis says its appearance in Eugene will be its first time in Oregon. Another Gunderson play, The Book of Will, has been onstage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Featured actors in OCT’s Christmas at Pemberley include, left to right, Erica Towe, Matthew Holland, Sabrina Gross, and Joseph Workman

Gunderson ranks as the most produced playwright in the United States in 1917 and has won myriad awards for her work, including a MacArthur “genius” fellowship and many other prizes and commissions.

Melcon likewise has strong theater chops, as a playwright, actor, and theater administrator.

The cast of Christmas at Pemberley features several veterans of the OCT stage, including Andrew Beck, Lindsey Esch, Sabrina Gross, Matthew Holland, Melanie Moser, Janelle Rae, Erica Towe, and Joseph Workman.

Elizabeth Helman directs, with technical help from sound designer Bradley Branam, costume designer Jeanette deJong, props by Kat Matthews, lighting by Janet Rose, and scene design by Amy Dunn. The production stage manager is Christle O’Neill.

The show runs from Nov. 30 through Dec. 16.

Christmas at Pemberley

When: Evening shows at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 6-8 and 13-16; matinees at 2 p.m. on Dec. 9 and 16

Where: Oregon Contemporary Theatre, 194 W. Broadway, Eugene

Tickets: $20 to $40 (the $40 opening-night cost includes wine, beer, and dessert), and $15 for students for all shows except opening night; tickets available at the OCT box office, 541-465-1506, or online at octheatre.org