Saturday, December 15, 2007

PLAY: "A Very Nosedive Christmas"

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

A Very Nosedive Christmas Carol is to the original as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is to Hamlet. James Comtois is no Tom Stoppard (Comtois is deliberately funny), but once again his Nosedive company strikes to the heart of what audiences really want this holiday season: laughs and eggnog (or eggnog and laughs, I'm sure he doesn't mind the order). In any case, the focus this time is on the supporting characters, Marley (Scott Lee Williams) and his cadre of ghosts, Past (Marsha Martinez), Present (Brian Silliman), and Future (Ben Trawick-Smith). You see, they're sick of haunting Scrooge (a delightfully Shakespearean Patrick Shearer) every year, and they're craving a release from the chains that bind them -- in a sense, they're scrooges themselves, denying what has become a postmodern Christmas staple.

At the same time, they're also actors -- playing a specific part for a specific audience -- and as they talk about their dismal auditions (Bloody Mary, Hamlet's father), they try to find ways to truly live each performance as if it were their first (even if that means putting stickers on a sleeping Scrooge). They all do their job very well, from Williams's mopey chain-rattling and misanthropic narration, to Martinez's endearingly cute performance, Silliman's technical prowess (his vocal warm-up is a scene-stealer), and Trawick-Smith's terrifying presence as some sort of cross between 80s hair metal lead singer and Grim Reaper (in other words, compliments to costumer Stephanie Williams).

As is typical of Nosedive productions, very little is taken seriously, and this play -- which we've all seen a million times before -- is the better off for it. The ghosts (like Scrooge) still learn a valuable lesson about Christmas cheer, but this time they do so in the midst of baby-chucking antics, caroling monkey puppets (and a sock-puppet Tiny Tim), and the most eccentric Cratchit family you've ever seen. Those portions that hew too close to the original, as with Scrooge's nephew (Matt Johnston), serve as reminders of how much more fun it is to watch a grown man (Marc Landers) walk around in a half-crouch so that he can play a little boy. As for the rest of the company, they're in particularly good form too, like Ben VandenBoom's emotional Bob and Jessi Gotta's charming Belle (I mention these two because they've played very different parts in other Nosedive productions).

A Very Nosedive Christmas Carol is now in its third year, and on the fast track to being a NYC staple of the season. So ho-ho-hurry over to the Red Room and get your jolly on.

No comments: