In my never humble opinion, you really don’t have to be Scrooge or The Grinch to be weary of the usual Christmas fare, that makes the usual theatrical rounds, every year in December. Even the most tender among us might yearn or even ache for a slant on Christmas that would make it fresh, meaningful, and relevant to lives suffused with skepticism and disappointment. And rightfully so. Of course, I reach for my hanky when Tiny Tim buys the farm or the spindly Christmas tree is resuscitated or George Bailey, haggard and despondent, gazes into the abyss of that cold black river. Who wouldn’t?
But is it so wrong, so cynical, so vile to want some way to appreciate Christmas without crawling through the same wasteland of stories we could recite backwards? Of course not. But what can we, as individuals do? Where the FFF can we look? I’m so glad you asked.
For the past three years, Nouveau 47 (champion of the dodgy, edgy, spooky and poetic) has produced a holiday show that explores Christmas, coming at it from many intriguing angles. By turns irreverent, funny, ridiculous, obtuse, scary, somber and yes, gentle. These are short pieces, some work better than others, some feel fierce, some sketchy, some strange. Past plays have included a woman trying to get her family to accept her lesbian partner, two brothers remembering their deceased mother, a comedy in which Santa defeats the cynicism of two cocky suits, and a drunk father on Christmas Eve. Drama is balanced by humor and the cumulative experience is a mixture of reflection, introspection, warmth and elation. Nouveau 47 never settles for the merely different. They always look for originality, strong writing and quality.
Now in its fourth year, the short-play festival tips more in favor of the satirical and amusing. A displaced snow-globe family, soldiers fighting extraterrestrials on Christmas Eve, wealthy relatives squabbling over gifts and a harried doctor searching for the last robot toy for his 4-year old boy. There is a satisfying blend of the dark, comical, somber and absurd. So if you need a break from the customary confection, dripping thickly with scrumptious honey, chock full of mawkish, manipulative, cringe-worthy suffering. Treat yourself to some grown-up, sophisticated takes on a world filled with chaos, candy canes, redemption and the raw power of dogged love.
Nouveau 47 presents A Very Nouveau Holiday 2016, playing December 9th-23rd, 2016. Playwrights include: Justin Locklear, Jim Kuenzer, Erin Burdette, James Burnside, Bill Otstott, Brad McEntire, Greg Silva, Christopher Soden and Chris-James Cognetta. In the historic Margo Jones Theater in the Magnolia Lounge at Fair Park (1121 1st Ave. Dallas, TX). Performances are at 8:15pm on Fridays, 5:00 on Saturdays, 6:30pm on Sunday with pay-what-you-can performances on Mondays at 8:15pm. Tickets are $20 Fri.-Sat. and $15 on Sundays. More details can be found at Facebook.com/N47Theatre.
Unlike my previous theatre columns, this is a piece encouraging you to attend A Very Nouveau Holiday 2016. You should bear in mind that one of the eight plays included was written by your very own loopy-yet-articulate lunatic. Me. So I can’t (and shouldn’t) critique the show.