According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"A Broken Christmas Carol" by Hannah Snyder-Beck

"Packed with sarcasm and holiday cheer, this spoof on the old classic is entertaining yet has serious undertones, making it a complete, fun-filled theater going experience."

“A Broken Christmas Carol” is a modern version of the old classic, complete with a pot-smoking Mrs. Cratchit and biting jokes about the Jewish experience during the Christmas holiday. The play opens with Maddie (Aly Wirth) in bed with her loving, yet emotionally guarded, boyfriend Shawn (Keith Arthur Bolden). After the couple smoke a holiday doobie (indeed, pot pops up everywhere in this production), Shawn is visited by the ghost of his childhood friend DeWayne. As DeWayne, William Jackson Harper bursts with humor and energy and his arrival sets off a whole host of events--including a glimpse into Shawn’s past as a dope-dealing kid from a rough neighborhood who pushes pot to pay for college.

At times, Mr. Bolden garbles his lines, but overall gives a solid performance as Shawn. As Shandra, Shawn’s girlfriend from the old neighborhood, Danielle Davenport is uneven. Ms. Davenport brings depth to her character, yet she fails to emotionally carry through. Aly Wirth is believable as Maddie, but her real talent shines when she later appears as Martha, eldest daughter to the Cratchits. Depicting Martha as a strung-out exotic dancer, Ms. Wirth’s quirky antics are charming and funny. As Mrs. Cratchit, Ellen Daschbach hits all the right marks, yet her voice is noticeably constricted, adversely affecting her performance. Leo Lauer plays the head of the Cratchit family, and as such, has tremendous drive and energy. When he gets sentimental, however, Mr. Lauer becomes lost and fumbles emotionally. Chaz Brewer delivers an energetic and over-the- top performance as Tiny Tim, and Guil Fisher as the greedy corporate billionaire, Scrooge, is smooth and spontaneous.

An interesting twist in this updated Christmas Carol includes the Cratchits’ appearing on a reality show in an attempt to win some cash. The audience is suddenly treated as a television studio audience, complete with men with head sets encouraging clapping and participation. William Jackson Harper appears as the host of the reality show, humorously commenting on holiday gluttony poverty, social hierarchy and the pipe dream of the perfect Christmas.

The makeshift cloth set and props, smartly conceived by Joshua Alan Robinson, are Brechtian inventions: they remind the audience that we are watching a play, and in doing so, call attention to the ridiculousness of holiday over-indulgence. The script, co-written by James Christy, J. Holtham and Kendra Levin is witty and well written. Packed with sarcasm and holiday cheer, this spoof on the old classic is entertaining yet has serious undertones, making it a complete, fun-filled theater going experience.

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