WINTER WONDERLAND, Set in NYC, to Play Theater for the New City
Christmas has inspired plays and movies from It's a Wonderful Life to A Christmas Carol, The Polar Express to Miracle on 34th Street. Winter Wonderland, a new play debuting at Theater for the New City, gives us a new Christmas story set in New York City.
Marvalee Peart, the author and director, has created a new show for the Christmas canon, telling the stories of intriguing characters, real and biblical, in a contemporary setting.
The play is running at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (between 1st and 2nd Aves.) from December 7 to December 24. Tickets are $18.00 by clicking HERE.
Cain, Abel, the devil, a single mom, cocktail waitress, an ex-convict and runaways all cross paths in the world of Winter Wonderland.
"Winter Wonderland is a unique story. It explores the relationship of good and evil," Peart said. "It's meant to be a Christmas story about love and loss, redemption and second chances."
The story, like many Christmas tales, deals with people seeking second chances, around a new year when new beginnings are, if not the norm, close to it. And that aspect of a desire for renewal is among the elements that fit Winter Wonderland into the genre of memorable Christmas stories.
"We've all asked for second chances with promises of turning our lives around. But how many of us truly follow through on those promises? How easy is it for us to revert back to our old ways?" Peart continued. "The theme of second chances runs throughout Wonderland as one year ends and a new one begins."
We meet recent parolee Eddie Fontaine played by Matthew Palumbo, who has made a deal with the devil in exchange for everlasting life; flight attendant Nina Rucci (Paolina Weber), a single mother in search of her missing son and five orphaned boys residing at Saint Anthony's Home for Boys struggling to survive another dismal Christmas.
Ryder (Nicholas Fox) a 14-year-old runaway is the newest member in the group. "What is he running from?" Peart asks.
He finds himself dealing with the resident bully, Rusty, played by Jake Dylan. Cody, the peacekeeper in the group is played by Bobby Allan; Whistler, the parish's rebel rouser, is played by Julian Sarin and the youngest in the pack, Petey, is played by Khalil Jai Fason; together these five lost souls make for a fascinating bunch.
"Each runaway has a story of hardship and hope," Peart said. "This time of year, the young can feel the emptiness that comes with the meaning of Christmas."
Although the stories are dramatic, there is some humor between the lines, Peart said. "Not everyone is cheery at Christmas," she added. "Not everyone has family. Not everyone can resist the dark cloud that comes during the holidays. Wonderland touches on these subject matters and speaks to a diverse audience."
The play includes biblical characters, such as Abel (DEANGELO KEARNS / Michael Filisky) and Cain (Troy Robert) who have lived an eternity.
"The Cain character (Prince of Darkness) has come to do what he does best - tempt and corrupt," Peart said. "He gets the opportunity of a lifetime when he brings recently deceased 'Eddie' back to life, offering his newest recruit redemption and immortality in exchange for everlasting servitude in Lucifer's army: The dark side."
Eddie struggles internally, balancing his will against that of others such as his family, Jesus Christ and even weighing right against wrong.
"His struggle is tempered with a comedic element," Peart said. "The relationship he has with a gorgeous young cocktail waitress at a neighborhood lounge 'The Blue Velvet'."
Amber, played by Kelcei Loraine Garber, is reminiscent of the 1950s lounge singers, a blend of sex appeal and humor. "The dynamic between Amber and Eddie can be electrifying," Peart said.
Eddie encounters a woman from his past - flight attendant Nina . "There is a long history between these two characters that represents present day couples," Peart continued. "There is the need to put aside one's differences for the sake of a greater good. Fatherhood/Motherhood. The decision to switch from the 'Me' mentality to the 'We' mentality."
The remaining cast members include Maggie Weston as 'Sadie', Izzy Durakovic as 'Pops' and Theresa Arthur as 'Nurse Bailey'.
The show is set in the late 1970s, the decade when disco and discotheques sprang to life and one could easily imagine a man like Eddie Fontaine walking into a joint and having a drink with the prince of darkness.
Winter Wonderland is not a musical, but the story is laced with a series of Christmas tunes, such as 'Mary Did You Know', 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel' and 'What Child Is This?'
Winter Wonderland runs at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (between 1st and 2ndAves.), playing December 7 - December 24 and Thurs - Sat 8:00pm & Sundays 3:00pm. Tickets ($18.00) at www.theaterforthenewcity.net, 212-254-1109.