BWW Review: SOLSTICE: A NEW HOLIDAY ADVENTURE at Theatre Three Departs from the Usual Pattern
SOLSTICE: A New Holiday Adventure is a high-energy story that will provide Dallas audiences with moments of joy, sadness, confusion, and ultimately gratitude this holiday season. Written by Jonathan Norton and Directed by Vickie Washington, this show offers unpredictable twists and turns, along with plenty of food for thought.
While Theatre Three's website warns that this show is "not your mother's Christmas Carol", it does draw on many of the same themes as the Dickens classic. The characters in this winter tale battle with grief, addiction, consumerism, and the importance of holding tight to the ones you love. However, in a departure from Scrooge's story, the story of Stuart and Paulette tackles these elements in a modern setting filled with whimsy, humor, and awkwardness - as well as tears of sadness and joy.
Patrons of Theatre Three will recognize Paul T. Taylor as Stuart and M. Denise Lee as Paulette as they revive the characters from last year's SOLSTICE: Stories and Songs for the Holidays. As the show begins we discover what the Scrooge-like Stuart wants for Christmas this year - a romantic evening with his secret Meals-on-Wheels girlfriend in the woods (and maybe some narcotics). A talented pair, Taylor and Lee are instantly lovable as the show's main characters. While both characters make a series of questionable choices, the actors who portray them establish a charm in each role that leaves the audience rooting for them to be successful.
The entire cast handles the twists and turns of the plot skillfully, clearly enjoying the "high humor and... low humor" promised early on in the show. The gifted Marti Ethridge also returns to SOLSTICE for the second year, and her ghostly narrator Misery seems quickly solidified as an audience favorite. That is until the appearance of the much-adored Johnnie Taylor (Cherish Robinson), who provides comedic relief following several of the show's more serious scenes. The cast is rounded out by Jason R. Villarreal, Abby Chapman, and Nikka Morton - all of whom take on multiple roles with apparent ease.
For Dallas natives, this show will provide plenty of hidden gems to enjoy - from the beautifully designed set (Jeffrey Schmidt) that is instantly recognizable as NorthPark Center, to the references to current and former Dallas residents. And while the set is one of the most memorable features of this unique show, the entire production is designed and executed skillfully - from costumes and lighting (Rhonda Gorman, Aaron Johansen) to music and sound (Cherish Robinson, Michael Boss). So though you may want to leave Tiny Tim at home for this one, be sure to bring the bad Santa or Mrs. Claus in your life for a thought-provoking performance full of unexpected holiday shenanigans. SOLSTICE: A New Holiday Adventure runs through Sunday, December 30th, with tickets available at https://www.theatre3dallas.com/shows-tickets/.