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Review: A (Happy) Holiday: A Festive Season Reimagined

Review: A (Happy) Holiday: A Festive Season Reimagined

Theatre Unchained is wrapping up their inaugural season with a highly unique offering. It's entitled A (HAPPY) HOLIDAY, and it is a brand new play direct from a collective of Indy playwrights: Max McCreary, Kaya (Kyle) Dorsch, J.E. Hibbard, and Karina Cochran. If that's not unique enough for you, then the play itself will pack even more creative punches. There's singing, dancing, a drag queen, and a lot of emotional turmoil. In short, this play seeks to sum up the holiday season in a slightly atypical way that's really closer to reality.

Celeste:

First, it's incredibly important to recognize the sheer magnitude of bringing together multiple writers and managing to create a complete, coherent script. It's exciting to see innovations coming directly from Indianapolis talent, and this ambitious new theater company is already planning a full 2023 season. But I digress.

A (HAPPY) HOLIDAY is as diverse as it is entertaining. The premise itself is great fun: personified serotonin as a drag queen, accompanied by glittery elves, comes to intervene and essentially save Christmas (or rather Chrismukkah) for a family. There are plenty of familiar themes, but a prime focus is on the difficulty that the holidays present along with the joy. Not every family situation is ideal, and the holidays can often highlight what you don't have rather than what you do. This play creates a nice lens through which to view that lived experience. It also creates opportunities for the audience to see themselves reflected in the characters, which is the ideal experience, in my opinion.

There were, of course, a few performance highlights. One of the most human performances for me came from Wilhelmena Dreyer as Leigh Martin-Abrams. She gave such a strong delivery as the daughter who almost has to parent her parent through emotional upheaval while also struggling to maintain any kind of relationship with her parent at all. You could feel her simultaneous strength and innate desire to feel safe being vulnerable with her mom. It created some very strong moments.

I also greatly enjoyed the antics of Wendy Brown as Bunny (Barbara) Abrams. She had an excellent deadpan that drew quite a bit of laughter from the audience, and she presents another relatable experience: using humor and performance to deflect and avoid. Her humor is both honest and over-the-top, fueled by alcohol and Ambien. Although we laugh with her, there is an undercurrent of cringe-worthy sadness and loneliness that runs throughout her journey in the show.

Dylan:

This year, the women of the Martin-Abrams family are doing things a little bit differently. With the dad/husband dying earlier this year, things are different now. The holidays are a drag, but a mysterious book arrives with the promise to heal their family, if only they can complete every story by midnight. Led by an anthropomorphized particle of Serotonin the family must uncover their own journey toward familial healing and find the most truthful way to celebrate the holidays.

It's the holiday season and all reviewers are going to their required holiday shows... You know... Elf, A Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol. It's the same stuff, different year. Not this show. This is a brand new show by a unique writers' room collaboration called A (Happy) Holiday. Feeling down or out by the holidays while everyone one else around you has holiday cheer? This is the show for you. It's got everything -- singing, dancing, a unique story, and a drag queen. Who could honestly want more? Conceptually, the show is different, which is a good thing. I do feel with some minor tweaking, this script could be very good and become something the company could do every few years.

A few notable shoutouts...

  • Lighting - damn good lighting design and a unique take from a play, which isn't common
  • Set - an extravagant set isn't needed here, and the baseline allowed the audience to focus on everything happening on-stage
  • Acting - solid and I was happy with everyone's performance. They also felt like a genuine family, which is hard to pull off

Performances run through December 10th at Arts for Lawrence, so don't miss this chance to truly support local theater and artists.



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