This is the third year for “A Very Nouveau Holiday 2015”, a collection of 10 short plays guaranteed to offer an alternative to the usual Yuletide schmaltz, and kindle some entertainment in the bargain. I can testify that this evening of scenarios is worth your time and dollar, even if (ironically) some seem prolonged or groping for resolution. I’m not saying effective drama must solve all problems before the end, but neither can the LIGHTS OUT feel arbitrary. For the most part, the issues raised are compelling : How do we recover the scintillating excitement that poured from our childhood Christmases with abundance? How do we fight the ubiquitous cynicism that so easily deflates the merriment we are aching for? How do we address the mistakes that come to haunt us when we find ourselves alone at Christmas? The Nouveau Holiday omnibus is generally skewed, peculiar and surly enough to keep the evening intriguing, if not altogether satisfying.
Kris Noteboom’s “Selling Santa” considers a meeting in which a couple of attorneys try to convince Santa to go commercial, to offset his flagging fan base. The two lawyers (referred to in the program as Suit 1 and Suit 2) may be inured to the pleas of their mummified humanity but they are no match for Santa’s genuine desire to heal their spiritual wounds. Sadly the last gag falls a bit flat, when Santa reveals his own capacity for manipulation. “Dot’s Nachos” (by Shelby Allison Hibbs) visits the same family every year, as matriarch Dot serves the special recipe she found on the side of a box. The nachos are virtually inedible (and they get worse every year). Despite the fact thy were forced to spare Dot’s feelings, they find that when she’s gone, they miss both this sweet lady and the notorious noshes.
Ben Schroth’s “No Season” explores the connection between two brothers as they work through the malaise of a Christmas without their mother, who has passed away. The older brother is taking it much worse, sinking his bourbon and snapping at his younger brother. They try to remember the prelude to “Winter Wonderland,” during a blackout, and older brother recalls a tender moment when he helped his mother through a devastating episode. No Season is the most subtle of these dramas, taking us through a conversation where so much of the pain is buried, and love between brothers barely perceivable. It’s dry, brilliant and excruciating.
“Last Christmas” by Matthew James Edwards is a modern gloss on “A Christmas Carol” in which Chris, a lost and deeply sorrowful soul, is plagued by Santa Claus himself, with apparitions of past failures. One questions the wisdom of this approach with someone who is already suicidal, but the sharpness of the script, paired with a truly shocking (if dubious) ending, alleviate the problems. “Maybe It’s You” (by Collin Miller) shares a few moments between Clay and Corey. Clay is head over heels in love with Corey. So overwhelming are his feelings of desire, that he comes off as kind of loopy. At least at first. Gradually, as Corey and he converse, and we hear his cringe-worthy attempts at humor, we realize that he might actually be unbalanced, but Corey doesn’t mind, because she feels simpatico. It’s a win-win. Like “Maybe It’s You” Greg Silva’s “Winslow Family Christmas, And Kyle,” is set during Christmas, but it’s not especially about Christmas. Kyle is a guest at the posh Winslow home and all stoked to propose to Rebecca, daughter of Tom and Bevv Winslow. Everything appears to be running smoothly till the ladies depart to bring dessert and coffee and Rebecca’s dad turns pathological. Winslow Family…may belabor it’s premise, and feel more like a sketch, but the concluding punchline is absolutely perfect.
Kevin Fuld’s “Musing on the Holidays” finds Max spending the holidays with best friend Mae, and her husband Brian. Max is thoroughly welcome in Mae and Brian’s home, as he has found himself, through an accident of fate, alone during the holidays. Nothing bad has happened to him, he’s just on his own, which tends to be a buzzkill. Like so many of us, Max wonders where along the way Christmas lost its fizz and delight. Mae suggests that really, Christmas has always been for the young, and Max receives a call from one one of his nephews that cheers him up. “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Christmas!” Jim Kuenzer’s satire on comic books that deal in two-dimensional super heroes and villains, finds young Timmy asleep on a hospital gurney. Professor Fritz Ennui wants to rob Timmy of his brain power (Timmy is a prodigy) but not if Captain Hero can help it. Towards the end of this hilarious piece, Timmy rises from his coma long enough to point out the duplicitous nature of a culture that pays lip service to Christmas ideals but once a year. Something about the end of this one didn’t quite work for me, but it was definitely one of the best.
“Elf Help” by Jared Seman turns the tables on a father who, like so many other lame parents, uses Christmas to extort compliance from his kid. “Winky” the enchanted elf toy, comes to life, and points out that this sort of strategy tends to suggest more problems with the parents than the children. Winky then proceeds to do an audit of Dad’s behavior over the past year. Surely the most fanciful and pleasurable pieces in this revue is Brad McEntire’s “Yeti at the Airport Lounge” in which a nonverbal Yeti is able to comfort Amanda, a young woman who is overcome by problems with her fiance. Amanda is so submerged in her own troubles she hardly notices the strangeness of her new friend. She’s just grateful for a sympathetic shoulder.
Of the 10 shows featured in A Very Nouveau Christmas : the most successful and affecting were : No Season, Selling Santa, Dot’s Nachos, Last Christmas, Winslow Family Christmas,And Kyle, It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Christmas! And Yeti at the Airport Lounge.
Special Props to what must be the most hard-working acting troupe in Western Dystopia : Brian Witkowicz, DeWayne Blundell, Maya Pearson, Maxim Overton, Bonnie Mitchell and Andra Laine Hunter.
Nouveau 47 Theatre presents A Very Nouveau Christmas playing December 11th-28th, 2015. Margo Jones Theater at Fair Park, 1121 First Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75210. Margo Jones Theatre.com