Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New York Theater Buzz: Non-Traditional Holiday Shows, Dec 2013

By Jacquelin Carnegie - (New York, NY)
Shelly Watson & cast (photo: Robert Zash)
Sure, go see the usual holiday fare such as Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and Balanchine/Tchaikovsky’s "The Nutcracker." But, after you've had your fill of little drummer boys and sugarplum fairies, check out these interesting offerings.

For Adults 
Nutcracker Rouge
Minetta Lane Theatre (18 Minetta Lane, btw MacDougal St & 6th Ave) 
Until January 5, 2014 
This delightful burlesque show, loosely based on The Nutcracker, is geared to consenting adults. That's great news for anyone who'd like to enjoy some holiday cheer without saccharine sweetness. Company XIV & The Saint At Large offer a marvelous mash up of music hall, ballet, cabaret, and circus. The music mixes Tchaikovsky’s original score with Vivaldi, Offenbach, and pop hits from Madonna and Lana Del Rey’s "Yayo," in a great rendition by Katrina Cunningham. Jeff Takacs, as a decadent ringmaster, and his buxom accomplice Shelly Watson keep the action moving. But no matter how campy the bit, all the performances are outstanding--singers, circus artists, dancers, and ballerinas. Courtney Giannone steals the show with a mesmerizing, candy-cane hoop routine. While the pas de deux finale by near-naked, classically-trained dancers Laura Careless and Alexander Hille is the perfect sendoff on a cold, winter's night. (For adults, 16-yrs+.)

The Pigeoning
HERE Arts Center (145 6th Ave.) Until December 22, 2013  
(photo: Richard Termine)
For those in a Bah-Humbug mood, this amusing dystopian world created by Robin Frohardt may be just the ticket. Frank, a nerdy, curmudgeon with OCD, deals with a pigeon problem. (Anyone who’s had pigeons cooing to distraction on their windowsill can relate.) The performance is slow and deliberate, albeit a bit too repetitive, and may not appeal to those looking for an action-packed plot. However, the terrific sets, puppets, and puppetry have incredible appeal. (For adults & sophisticated kids.)

The Jacksonian
Theater Row (410 West 42nd St.) Until December 22, 2013
Presented by The New Group; Written by Beth Henley; Directed by Robert Falls; Starring: Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Bill Pullman, Glenne Headly & Juliet Brett
(photo: Monique Carboni)

Sometimes, it's worth seeing a play, not for the play itself, but for the actors. Here, the outstanding ensemble cast uplifts the action in this southern Gothic whodunit that takes place in a down-at-the-heels motel (great set by Walt Spangler). It's Christmastime in Jackson, Mississippi, circa 1964. The tale, told by the daughter (newcomer Juliet Brett), involves her bickering parents--father, the always-wonderful-to-watch Ed Harris, and mother, the superb Amy Madigan (Harris' real-life wife). Adding welcomed comic relief to this dark yarn is the absolutely terrific Bill Pullman as the motel's barman and Glenne Headly as the motel's maid. It's a thrill to see Headly back on the New York stage; here's hoping she makes a habit of it. (For adults.)

(photo: Circus Der Sinne)
For Kids
Mother Africa
The New Victory Theater (209 West 42nd St.) Until January 5, 2014 
Not just at holiday time but all year long, The New Vic's got a knack for presenting shows that delight children and keep their accompanying adults entertained. With this joyous offering from Circus Der Sinne ("Circus of the Senses"), that mixes circus acts with traditional African dance and music, kids get introduced to a contortionist and jugglers from Ethiopia, stilt walkers from Tanzania, gumboot steppers from South Africa, and all kinds of dancers and musicians from Tanzania and Zimbabwe. It's easy to enjoy the energetic, charismatic performers in colorful costumes and to marvel at the feats of a little, 12-year-old Ethiopian boy, Tomas. For a holiday treat, expose your kids to other cultures through the universal languages of acrobatics and music. (For kids of all ages & adults.)

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