There’s holiday entertainment still to be had ONLINE this holiday week and here are two that encompass the dynamics and traditions of the season– which this year feels more fraught than most. Take comfort and joy in the following offerings which dust off the past, dive into the complexities of the present, and emerge with perspective and inspiration for the new year.
Let’s begin at the beginning with THE CHRISTMAS REVELS now in its 51st year, staged at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, and now on video. This glorious pageant plumbs a trove of traditions that go all the way back to Pagan and Christian cultures celebrating the solstice and the re-emergence of light after the darkest days of the year. That celebration of rebirth and Christmas has particular resonance now, a feeling in our bones as we stand on the verge of a global existential tipping point.
Once again, the irrepressible David Coffin and a dynamic cast– William Forchion, Carolyn Saxon, Regie Gibson, Mark Jaster, Sabrina Selma Mandell–lead us in this refreshed and updated half-century edition, inclusive and diverse, and propelled by a fully-engaged audience in an evening of pageantry and harmony, live music and dance, poetry and storytelling, caroling and rapping! Under artistic director Paddy Swanson and dramaturg Benny Sato Ambush, the tale of George and the Dragon has evolved into a hip hop battle with nothing less than the official License for Revelry and the Suspension of Disbelief at stake– signed, sealed, and delivered. There’s more than a dollop of soul as we lean on each other in wondrous harmony– onstage and on zoom from the Ha’Penny Wassail Children.
With Mummers still mumming, Santa rapping, and ghosts Paula Plum and Richard Snee lending their otherworldly frisson to this ancient and newly-imagined mash-up, the 51st edition of The Christmas Revels is an intoxicating, homespun brew laced with enough charm and spirit to wassail us into the new year. Oh Happy Day! Mummers the word. Get your VOD Event Passes for $35 per household at www.revels.org/christmas now through January 9th!
ALSO– DO CHECK OUT the world premiere comedy now online (the video is easy to watch and hear!) at Merrimack Repertory Theater: THE RISE AND FALL OF HOLLY FUDGE. Written by Trista Baldwin and directed by Courtney Sale, the show is set in Brockton, Mass and stars the divine Karen MacDonald as Carol a single mother whose award-winning holiday fudge is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to rocking the traditional boat. It’s Christmas week 2020 and Carol’s adult daughter Holly (Kristian Espiritu) arrives from the west coast with her new girlfriend Jordan (Eliza Martin Simpson) whom Carol’s friend and neighbor Chris (Milicent Wright) dubs “a strapping young woman.” It’s one in a series of awkward exchanges, laced with overcompensating cheerfulness and bourbon-infused eggnog.
The young women’s visit triggers a raft of mother-daughter tension, romantic conflict, and colliding values, spiked with competing fudge recipes, a local political protest and a pandemic just beyond the door. The author calls this “a queer, Covid Christmas play.” I call it life. Despite the facileness of the surface, the play does justice to the universal themes all humans struggle with– finding meaning, identity, and safe harbor in a changing, unpredictable world where acceptance — what I call love–is the way.
The performers shine, and deliver this serious load with a light touch through a woman’s lens, rendering the material accessible and sympathetic; the issues honor all the possibilities that life always, and especially now, challenges us to embrace. Watch THE RISE AND FALL OF HOLLY FUDGE on VIDEO NOW— through January 4!