BWW Reviews: A.D. Players' GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, CHRISTMAS TREE ORNAMENTS AND MYRRH Reminds Us the Reason for the Season

Craig Griffin as Actor 1, Michael Eaton as Boy, and
Braden Hunt as Actor 2.

When Christmastime draws near, it seems that almost every theatre in town gets into the holiday spirit. As usual, Houston audiences have a plethora of choices when it comes to holiday entertainment. This season A.D. Players is presenting Thomas Ohlson's comedy GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, CHRISTMAS TREE ORNAMENTS AND MYRRH. The play premiered Off-Broadway in 1964 at the Riverside Church and ran for 20 performances. It introduces audiences to a fourth wise man who, despite his best efforts, misses the birth of Jesus Christ.

In all sincerity, Thomas Ohlson's play was simply too preachy for my tastes. The writing heavily focuses on all the religious reasons Christians should celebrate Christmas, which often gets lost in the hubbub of consumerism. Also, the parable upholds Christian morals and ideology. Additionally, Thomas Ohlson attempts to add healthy doses of comedy into the work, but it just didn't pay off for me. The Flight of the Conchords-like zaniness intrigued me, but it just seemed to be lacking the heart that makes comedy sparkle and shine. At intermission and after the show, I heard similar sentiments uttered by some other members of the audience; yet, others around me were pristinely affected by the play, both laughing and crying during the production.

Direction by Sarah Cooksey highlights the cartoonish aspects of the characters and the plot, saving all of the production's seriousness for the young character of Joshua (Jesus) in the second act. She has coached her cast to be energetic and utilize facial expressions well, but as a team their hard work just cannot overcome the clunky writing. There are many places throughout the show where the production seems to drag along until the last 15 minutes or so of both acts, where the script allows itself to come alive and be interesting.

Craig Griffin leads the cast as First Actor, portraying a mystic sorcerer from the legendary East. As a wise man, he magically travels back in time as he approaches Bethlehem, arriving at the fabled manger 12 days before Mary and Joseph. His onstage persona is larger than life and filled with and enigmatic mirth.

Playing Boy, Michael Eaton is charismatic. He comes into his own when he shifts roles from being a servant to Craig Griffin's wizard and steps into the role of Joshua. As a serene and contemplative youth, he does a great job exposing audiences to the early foundations of the boy who would later become Jesus.

The remaining members of the cast, Second Actor played by Braden Hunt, Third Actor played by Kurt Bilanoski, and Actress played by Leslie Lenert, all do good jobs with their roles. They commit to their various characters and have as much fun on stage as possible. They breathe as much life as they can into their characters, but unfortunately Thomas Ohlson's writing confines them to stiff characterizations.

The A.D. Players' production of GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, CHRISTMAS TREE ORNAMENTS AND MYRRH does a sturdy job reminding us of the reason for Christmas. It's more than an ebullient reprieve from our daily lives; it is a celebration of God's gift to mankind.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission.

GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, CHRISTMAS TREE ORNAMENTS AND MYRRH, produced by The A.D. Players, plays the Grace Stage, 2710 West Alabama Street, Houston, 77098 now through December 29, 2013. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., select Saturdays at 2:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit or call (713) 526-2721.

Photos by Bara Photography. Courtesy of A.D. Players.high res photos

Michael Eaton as Boy, Kurt Bilanoski as Actor 3, Leslie Lenert as Actress, and Braden Hunt as Actor 2.

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David Clarke David Clarke has had a lifelong love and passion for the performing arts, and has been writing about theatre both locally and nationally for years. He joined running their Houston site in early 2012 and began writing as the site's official theatre recording critic in June of 2013.

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