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.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Very Nosedive Christmas Carol

The "very Nosedive" addition to the classic Christmas Carol title promises the usual festive story, along with bonus, over-the-top extras: and that's exactly what you'll get. Caroling monkeys and sock-puppet Tiny Tims, a Shakespearean Scrooge, and all the other fixings, only this time viewed from the perspective of four very frustrated ghosts, doomed to spend each Christmas doing the same old play.

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.

The Red Room (85 East 4th Street; Fl. 3)
Tickets (212-352-3101): $18.00
Performances: 12/15 @ 11:00

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