A CHRISTMAS CAROL, OY! HANUKKAH, MERRY KWANZAA: Show Review by Hannah Singer


(L-R: Katarina Vizina and Valois Mickens. Photo by Jonathan Slaff)

This time of year always goes too fast for me, so I have been a bit of a Scrooge, thinking Bah Humbug. Then I was offered these tickets to a show I thought was for kids. So I took my kid, but to my astonishment, the show worked on so many levels that we both were captivated by it.

On December 21, we entered The Theatre for the New City and headed downstairs into a small dark, atmospheric theatre. Along the left side hung rows of puppets in varying sizes (Czech puppetry dates back to the 17th century). Onstage was an eclectic assortment of stuff, found objects, toys, Christmas lights and more puppets. There were also two tiny theatres with curtains and all. One was Scrooge’s bedroom and the other housed various hand painted backdrops where the rest of the Dickens story took place.  Michelle Beshaw did an outstanding job in set and costume design. As did Federico Restrepo in lighting design which added to the mood.

The show, presented by the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre, is the classic Dickens tale, “A Christmas Carol”, but adapted in a most unique and clever way. The Christmas Carol is the story within the story. Vit Horejs who adapted, directed, reinvented and stars in this show was nothing short of brilliant. He was accompanied by two wonderful singers, Katarina Vizina and Valois Marie Mickens. They were dressed in Old World clothing and spoke with accents and sang beautifully in Czech, English, Hebrew, Slovak, Spanish and Swahili.

There was lots of humor in the show, and all three were funny throughout the play. For instance when Valois was to count hours by hitting a frying pan and Vit thought she should speed it up. And when Katarina was sneaking drinks from her flask and then becoming more and more inebriated.  Timing in humor can make or break it. The timing of the three was on the mark at all times. The kids and the adults in the audience were all laughing. There were sometimes modern references integrated into the lines which made it more relatable to today audience.

We were moved by songs in various languages, and I could hear audience members singing along with most of them.

Vit Horejs is a sort of Einstein-looking character with his long mane of white hair. He has a strong stage presence, and at times reminded me of an older Donald Sutherland. He operated the whole cast of puppets himself. I loved how we see him moving them around and with them. It was not slick , but it was almost like your grandpa is telling you a story and using his puppets to show you. It felt real. Nothing was hidden from us. It seemed spontaneous, which is so refreshing. I loved the juxtaposition of the puppets and the puppet master, of the stage and the tiny puppet rooms.

Vit and Valois and Katarina all were quite comfortable in their stage roles. They were the ultimate professionals. I thought to myself I would love for the show to have a wider audience and perhaps perform it live for television. This way kids of all ages could enjoy it who could not otherwise get to a theatre to see it in person. Vit’s version would fast become a holiday classic.

The stage manager, Jimmy Dewhurst and the producer, Bonnie Sue Stein and GOH Productions should be proud.

Besides the three large performers , there are the little marionettes themselves created by Milos Kasal and Vaclav Krcal and other unknown Czech folk artists who were all wonderful. They all look like antiques and one can see the love put into them.

After the show, the audience was able to purchase puppets and books and postcards. We bought a princess Marionette to live with us. We are enjoying having her here, and she is now cherished by us.

I had walked in Scrooge-like but happily walked out feeling the spirit of the season. Thank you CAMT and Theatre for the New City and of course Vit Horejs for this production and the  reminder of kindness and realness and for making me leave with joy in my heart and hope for mankind.

 

 

Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street)

Phone: (212) 254-1109 

https://theaterforthenewcity.net

Showing from December 19 to January 5.

 

 

 

 

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