In search of holiday cheer this past Friday, I joined an audience of people who poured into the small reception area at Open Eye Theatre. We were greeted with warm hot cider and an array of cookies that would have made Santa green with envy. As we filed into our seats the lights dimmed, and we could hear was the sweet sound of an accordion transporting us into a fantasy world filled with puppets, angels, and the dark lord Lucifer.
What unfolded on stage was the Nativity story mixed with the classic English mystery play The Second Shepard. With the introduction of Lucifer, played by Michael Sommers, the audience discovers the fallen angel is listless and in despair over the lethargy of humanity. His minion Teufel (Elise Langer) tries to figure out a way to pull her master out of his melancholy and ignite the passion he once had for destruction. Through divine intervention, and the journey of the two Angels, Gabriel (E.A. Zimmer) and Matin (Langer again) from heaven to earth in search of a virgin to impregnate, the story proceeds. From this point the audience is taken on an adventure from the heavens, to hell, through the woods, and to a manger. With the addition of puppets, comedy ensues and all ends well for each character with the birth of a baby.
|the holiday pageant, presented through december 23 at open eye theatre. for tickets ($20) and information, see openeyetheatre.org.|
The most impressive aspects of the production are the performances of Langer, the musicians, and the Celestial Choir. Langer performs with the kind of impeccable comedic timing that Lucille Ball would envy. She embodies both characters that she plays and the moments when she belts out “My Heart Will Go On” are a treat for the entire audience. The choir and band that accompany the pageant are fantastic. Their voices and sounds transform the theater with the holiday cheer that, unfortunately, the pageant’s content lacks. The performances by the cast and puppeteers are comical and at times enchanting, but the sarcasm of the play overshadows the intended holiday spirit. Several times I was uncomfortable with the overtly sexual content that is presented with children in the audience—prospective audience members go aware that while this is a celebration of the Nativity story, it’s also a prickly satire.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I have no regrets in starting off my holiday season with this pageant. I encourage people to go see the Holiday Pageant. You will enjoy a fanciful evening with delightful music, enchanting performances, and tasty refreshments. However, if you are looking for classic holiday cheer or magical Christmas moments, you might not want this to be your first stop.
|This production is featured in the Daily Planet’s complete guide to holiday theater. Throughout the holiday season, the guide will be updated with links to new Daily Planet reviews—so you’ll know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.|