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Holiday Shows Are Cause for Hope

By Rick Pender · December 10th, 2008 · Curtain Call
At least a dozen holiday productions are onstage this week and next. Some are long runs (the Playhouse’s Shelterhouse show I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change began back on Nov. 6 and runs at least through New Year’s Eve), while some are offered for one night only. But every theater hopes to sell tickets this time of year when people are inclined go out and have a good time. Despite grim economic news bearing down on us like a daily tsunami, I hope you’re taking time this holiday season to enjoy a production or two.

It’s not just about entertainment. For many theaters, a popular holiday show can sustain the budget in a routine year. When people are holding on tighter to their paychecks, it’s especially rough for theaters — what they do seems like a “frill,” something we might bypass when times are tough. But it’s precisely now when we need good theater to entertain us, to distract us and perhaps to make us think. (See my holiday theater preview here.)

In my review of the Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol, I suggest that Charles Dickens’ social conscience, outraged in 1843 by the evils of the Industrial Revolution and greedy business operators, seems quite timely in 2008 amid the evils of unfettered financial mismanagement and, well, greedy business operators.

Have we made any progress? I’m an optimist, and I like to believe that if Ebenezer Scrooge can be convinced of a better, more hopeful way to live, maybe it’s possible for others. Come January there will be a change in our nation’s leadership, after all, and that’s certainly cause for hope.

We don’t have enough room in the print version of CityBeat to cover every holiday show, but online we've collected a number of reviews. For instance, Ensemble Theatre has revived one of its finest holiday musicals, Alice in Wonderland by playwright Joe McDonough and composer David Kisor. In his review Mark Sterner writes, “The genius of this production is that it maintains a sharp focus amidst a veritable avalanche of characters coming and going, singing and dancing, playing intimate and crowded scenes.” Crediting director Lynn Meyers for this juggling feat, he adds, “The play could become an exhausting procession of episodes, but Meyers corrals the nonsense into tight ensemble playing.”

At New Edgecliff Theatre, there’s another season of David Sedaris’s The Santaland Diaries, described by Tom McElfresh in his review as “a welcome antidote to the saccharine shock of other Christmas entertainments.” In addition to Sedaris’s classic monologue about working as a department store elf, actor Russell Ihrig interprets a letter from “Mrs. Jocelyn Dunbar of haute suburbia, complete with a $1.98 blonde wig and razor tongue.” Maybe that’s not your idea of a holiday treat. But I bet it will take your mind off the economy.

Happy holiday theatergoing.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: rpender@citybeat.com



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