This wonderful annual holiday production benefits the Toys for Tots organization and is a sparkling secret gem in NoHo.
It showcases six one-act, original plays, each with a different slant on our traditional beliefs during this time of year. Started 18 years ago to benefit this much-needed cause, all proceeds go to help children receive new gifts every holiday season. Written by playwrights from Virginia, California and Washington D.C., this show is well worth experiencing. Anyone who wants a laugh, shed a small tear, or share some gratitude will definitely have a darn good time with this show.
The first play is called "Death by Poinsettia" written by Dwayne Yancey and directed by Conrad Dunn.
It centers on the alone and lonely parts that arise too frequently during this season of cheer. A very lonely 20-something (Jessica Temple, decides to kill herself by eating a Poinsettia plant in front of the internet world. She is alone and feels no connection to others. Although the theme is serious, the way it is written and acted by both of the characters brings a sense of recognition and humor to the often insane demands on all of us during this season. Cameron Weir is great as her uninvited guest. He is just as lonely and odd as she believes she is. He is sweetly sincere as he bears his soul to her on how he also feels like an outcast but yearns for a connection. It is funny, poignant and timely.
Next up is "The Angel Tree" written by Dwayne Yancey as well. He seems to have a plethora of ideas and words swirling around for us this year. If an angel appeared and granted wishes, what would you ask for? What would it take for any of us to believe it is real and not just in our busy heads? The gentle and yet boisterous angel portrayed by Sharon Munfus is more than willing to answer all questions and desires. Even that of a single mother played by Stacy Ann Raposa. Can she reconnect to the teenage daughter (Jessica Fernstom) who is so difficult? According to our angel, it only takes a snap of the fingers and the willingness to believe. Ms. Munfus is perfect in her role. A bit sassy, a bit superior, she is warm and engaging as she shows the mother what is truly important at this time of year.
The funniest and best directed is "Homo for Christmas" written by John Bavoso and directed by the very talented actress Stacy Ann Raposa.
This is a total laugh fest! Ignorance of the facts doesn’t seem to matter in some circles these days, but it does have an unusual reaction in most family gatherings. Will the parents and grandmother accept the new partner of their beloved child? In this farcical production of miswords and misunderstandings, this family takes the prize. Blatantly ignoring the new girlfriend (Lauren Burwell) of the gay grand-daughter (Ashley Akins), many issues lend themselves to strong chuckles and all out belly laughs. The grandmother is great. Penny Peyrot obviously knows what it takes to garner a laugh and keep moving. The mother, Rosanne Limeres, is no stranger to NoHo theater productions and carries herself with the utmost charm in this ‘ditzy’ mom role. In fact, everyone was really good in this one. I would have loved to see more of this storyline.
Many in the audience liked the “World’s Worst Christmas” that stared two very talented actors, Monica Mauro and Cliff Weissman. Caught on Christmas Eve in a pharmacy awaiting much-needed medications, these characters verbally battle for the unhappiest person of the season. One is ill and one has to get ointment for a sensitive lower region. Both are alone and quickly engage in witty, often sarcastic banter. By the end of their ‘discussion’ they find a surprisingly common ground and come together in an understanding that sharing is the key to the holidays.
The last two plays; "My Name is Santa Claus" and "The Christmas Goat" are also a collection of characters that are out of the ordinary.
The first has a female homeless woman claiming to be Santa Claus, portrayed by Irene Muzzy. The later one is about the animals gathering in the manger awaiting a very important birth. We find that although they are written and directed by separate individuals (LH.Grant and Dwayne Yancey), both share similar messages. Is anyone really fooled when they want to believe something seemingly impossible? Isn’t everyone really looking to belong and be a part of a something that we might have lost or desired? After all, it is people and our connections that make us feel special as part of the season’s joy.
This entire show is so enjoyable, I might go back a second time. After all, it is for a good cause.
Come and fill yourself with gratitude and joy and many, many laughs. The talent and creativity presented on stage can rival any big theater production in town. Thank you to the executive producer, Fran Montano, producer Stacy Ann Raposa, and the entire crew and actors that made this show a delight.
Take yourself and others to the Actors Workout Studio and have a great time.
Shows run December1-16, 2017 at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $20.00 and proceeds go to the Toys for Tots organization helping children. actorsworkout.com, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., Noho 91602.