Sunday March 26th 2017

“Holidaze” review by Lawrence Riordan

holidaze-7278 As children, we look towards Christmas with anticipation and joy. It is a delightful time, and for our parents, who perhaps more conscious of the provenance of the holiday than we are, selflessly pretend that Santa Claus is responsible for their generosity, but still take delight in the joy he brings to our lives on Christmas morning (Deal with that, psychological egoists). The excited anticipation of a child in the days preceding Christmas is fed by movies like “Christmas Carol,” “Christmas Story,” and “Miracle at Thirty-Fourth Street,” and consummate with a tree, a family feasts, and presents.

For adults, especially without young children, the holidays can be a more challenging affair in which consumerism seems to run rampant and can conflict with the deep social and cultural pressure to be happy. “Holidaze” is a series of one-act plays that anticipates, feeds, and catharsizes the emotional difficulties that many of us face at Christmas. It is the previously aforementioned films rewritten for grown-ups and, with a slightly graphic depiction of an adulterous liaison (which I really didn’t understood what was doing with the other plays), mild coarse language, and some extremely edgy, albeit very funny, jokes about religion and race (e.g. “yes, the institution formally known as slavery”), it is thoroughly adult fare.

The plays are various permutations of the maudlin: some are depressing, some funny, some moving, one surreal. Perhaps the strongest is Joshua Rollins’ “Perfect Space” which concerns two young adults waiting to meet Daniel Radcliffe on Christmas Day for two very different reasons. It has an extremely realistic and genuine script, and hilarious but painful performances by Maria Margaglione and Conor Woods (In the sense that they were gifted comedians who simultaneously who were funny while simultaneously  conveying great pain as actors). The last play, by Steven Peterson, “A couple of Nobodies” is a compelling, tender, slightly dark comedy, about a lonely socialite (Elizabeth Antonucci and introvert (Anthony Venturiniand) who get stuck in the same apartment on New Year’s Eve, and presumably are going to end up together in the January. It is certainly touching, especially with Miss Antonucci’s pitch-perfect performance, but it feels like it bears more resemblance to what reality should be than what it is.holidaze

Gift Horse Grills was innovative and funny, but a trip from Santa to deliver a benefit to a house-party of ethnically diverse twenty-something’s on Christmas Eve in the form of forty acres and a mule in Africa in reparation for “the institution formally known as slavery.” is really pushing the boundaries as to what are acceptable subjects for humor.The plays are various permutations of the maudlin: some are depressing, some funny, some moving, one surreal. Perhaps the strongest is Joshua Rollins’ “Perfect Space” which concerns two young adults waiting to meet Daniel Radcliffe on Christmas Day for two very different reasons. It has an extremely realistic and genuine script, and hilarious but painful performances by Maria Margaglione and Conor Woods (In the sense that they were gifted comedians who simultaneously who were funny while simultaneously conveying great pain as actors). The last play, by Steven Peterson, “A couple of Nobodies” is a compelling, tender, slightly dark comedy, about a lonely socialite (Elizabeth Antonucci and introvert (Anthony Venturiniand) who get stuck in the same apartment on New Year’s Eve, and presumably are going to end up together in the January. It is certainly touching, especially with Miss Antonucci’s pitch-perfect performance, but it feels like it bears more resemblance to what reality should be than what it is. Gift Horse Grills was innovative and funny, but a trip from Santa to deliver a benefit to a house-party of ethnically diverse twenty-something’s on Christmas Eve in the form of forty acres and a mule in Africa in reparation for “the institution formally known as slavery.” is really pushing the boundaries as to what are acceptable subjects for humor.

The technical aspects of the show had to be flexible to accommodate the many plays, but the sound (Jeffrey Levin) was really a problem. It was a projected by a speaker rather than coming from places on stage where it was supposed to occur such as a doorbell or cell-phone. This not only destroyed verisimilitude, it made the plots confusing at places. “Holidaze” is playing at The Chicago Dramatist Theater located at 1105 W. Chicago Avenue through December 21, 2014. Performances are Thursday through Friday at 7:30 pm and Sunday’s at 2:00 pm. Regular Tickets are $30. Student Tickets are $17 with a current ID. Senior Tickets are $25. Rush Tickets are as available at $20. Tickets are currently available at www.stepupproductions.org or by calling (312) 316-8355.

To see what others are saying visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at  “Holidaze”holidaze2

 

 

 

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