Step Up Productions' "Holidaze" celebrates the season with the finest of original one acts, with an ensemble extraordinaire. The title says it all, as, at this time of year, everyone's flustered and ablazed with all the excitement and expectations the holiday activities and festivities bring. It's the time of giving... and also the time of taking stock, and starting new years' resolutions. While Santa's making a list and 'checking it twice,' we are doing the same.
Act One, "The Space Behind Your Heart," by Steve Simoncic, directed by Vincent Teninty, features Andy Luther and Amanda Powell, as two lonely souls, who are searching for love on the internet site, "Christian Mingle." They are brought together, meeting at a local coffeehouse, despite seemingly 'conservative' facades. Yet things are not always what they seem, as Amanda's character states, "I need to get out of myself, be edgy and exotic!" Sometimes small talk, such as "how's your coffee?" helps to give order to a world of chaos, and works wonders. They 'confess' their personal agenda, and try to make chemistry happen.
Act Two, "And The Snow Came Down," by Tate Geborkoff, directed by Tara Branham, features Jake Carr, Greg Geffrard and Gina Tallaferro. A gay couple, Stuart and Phillip, are trying diligently to make the best of a very difficult situation, hosting a holiday dinner, for a mother who truly loves and adores her son, yet is antagonistic and hostile to her future son in law. She seems to be the 'mother in law from hell,' a la Cruella Deville or the Grinch. Through a long conversation and bitter repartee, they finally realize that "all they have in common is Phillip," and a feud will not bode well for future holiday gatherings, so they might as well just all get along. The mother looks at the situation through her son's eyes, and realizes gratitude is best.
Act Three, "For My Brothers Whenever I May Find Them," by Nambi E. Kelly, directed by Daniel Bryant, features Nadirah Bost, Jennifer Glasse, David Goodloe, and Eric Lynch. The family faces much discord and discontent, as the matriarch is on medication and life support, expressing her dying wish, that 'all she wants for Christmas' is peace, happiness , and harmony between her children. In her last breath, she expresses to her daughter and sons: Be/Act like a family. Despite the acrimony and sibling rivalry, the daughter comes to realize her brothers' love and care for her, and how she misunderstood them. She honors her mother's words, "Pick up and keep moving," as the siblings gather, as their mother's spirit looks on, in a most evocative, surreal reunion, much like Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
Act Four, "The Intruder," by Joshua Rollins, directed by Laura Hooper, features Elizabeth Antonucci and Connor McNamara. As the couple wish for a Norman Rockwell holiday, with roasted chestnuts and carols, a rabid squirrel enters their sacred sanctuary, ravaging their home, and spirits as well. The scene has an O'Henry surprise/twist, with a strong moral message. The real intruder was fate, symbolically a squirrel. The couple must now re-examine the meaning of life, love, and more important questions than seeking material 'pie in the sky.' Reality came bursting in quickly, ravaging their apartment and lives, slowly knawing on their foundation.
Act Five, "Christmas is Made for Fools," by Lisa Dillman, directed by Adrianne Curry, features Eric Lynch, Ashley Neal, and Nick Polus. is set in medieval Elizabethan times, reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales, and poetic, flowery dialogue, similar to Shakespeare and Chaucer. The king's fool, a depressed court jester, creates a holiday pageant for the king, getting a lesson in love and merrymaking from the palace wench. The holiday, a time of joy, is intermittent with "shadows and empty sorrows."
Through December 22nd
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays 8PM Sundays 2 PM
The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Avenue , Chicago
stepupproductions.org (773) 9356875