QP scores with ‘Suburban Holidays Six’

29Nov17

By MARK SARDELLA

Supporting the arts and local artists would be a good enough reason to attend Quannapowitt Players’ “Suburban Holidays Six,” especially since at least three Wakefield residents are involved with the current show as actors, directors, producers and playwrights.

But you don’t need an altruistic reason to go see this year’s festival of short holiday plays. Be selfish. Go for the fun and entertainment of watching these seven clever and original short plays written and performed for the sheer love of doing it. And since it is a fundraiser, you have all the justification you need to take a break from the holiday madness for a night of live theater.

The show gets off to a strong start with “Stranger Than True (or Kind of True) Crime Stories from the Files of Bob the Cop – Case #2: Who Sleighed Santa?” Written by Cary Pepper and directed by Wakefield’s own Patrick Cleary, this cleverly-written comedy features Wakefield resident Brian Sensale in the lead role as Bob the Cop.

Bob is a hard-boiled dick in the best tradition of Leslie Nielsen’s “Naked Gun” cop Frank Drebin. And if, like me, you’re a sucker for good puns, this play will quickly draw you in. In this episode, Bob the Cop is called in to investigate the mysterious death of Santa Claus.

“It was Christmas of ’98,” Bob deadpans. “Looking back now, it felt like another century.”

Besides Sensale, “Bob the Cop” features Joan Luz-Holt, Ron Wackowski, Glenn Wakeley, Estella Orfanos, Evelyn Howell, Casey Stephenson, Matt Garlin and Leonard Chasse.

Next up is “Stand Ins,” which plays off Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol – except on this night, Scrooge is a modern-day video game developer whose obsessive work ethic has made him a fortune but has taken a toll on those around him. In fact, he broke up with his girlfriend three days before Christmas so he could spend the holiday working.

And the ghosts that visit him on Christmas Eve are substitutes filling in for the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

The first visit comes from the ghost of Abe Lincoln (played by John Nuquist), whose wry delivery bears more than a passing resemblance to that of Woody Harrelson.

A gum-snapping video-gamer subs for the Ghost of Christmas Present and Hamlet’s ghost takes the place of the Ghost of Christmas Future.

“Stand Ins” is written by Glenn Wakeley and directed by Amanda O’Connell and features some good comic writing by Andover playwright Glenn Wakeley. In addition to Nuquist, the cast includes Kerry Moe, Matthew Garlin and Chris Rose.

“Blood Relations” is written and directed by Wakefield’s Patrick Cleary. The play opens with teenage Casey babysitting for a precocious and imaginative little boy named Jackson.

As Casey tries to persuade Jackson to stop stalling and go to bed, the boy regales her with tales that his mother is a “vegetarian vampire,” meaning she doesn’t drink the blood of humans, only small animals.

When Jackson’s mom comes home and Casey learns the surprising truth, will she ever want to babysit for them again?

“Blood Relations” features Jenny Hughes, Jackson Hughes-Page, Casey Stephenson and Estella Dattoli.

Wakefield’s Donna Corbett directs the next entry, “Upset Over Nothing,” a comedy written by Long Island, N.Y. playwright Robin Doupe.

An older woman and her adult daughter are at the customer service counter of the “Toys for Joys” store. The daughter insists upon returning the gift that her mother has purchased for her granddaughter. The gift, “Invisible Buddy in a Box,” is apparently the season’s most coveted gift, but the daughter insists that her mother shouldn’t have bought a box of nothing, and demands a refund.

Much comic confusion ensues among the store clerk and the customers over a gift that no one can see but every kid wants, especially when it turns out that the toy in question is “Isabel,” the most coveted Invisible Buddy of them all!

“Upset over Nothing” stars Chrissy Lewis, Joan Luz-Holt, Amanda O’Donnell, Prachi Nagada, Nicole Wright and Chris Rose.

Corbett also directs “My Turkey Redeemer Liveth,” a short romantic comedy by New Jersey playwright Loretta Bolger Wish.

All the dialog takes place on the phone after a middle-aged woman calls a company’s technical assistance hotline when her refrigerator goes on the blink the night before Thanksgiving. She’s afraid that if she can’t get it fixed, her turkey will spoil as well as her Thanksgiving plans. She’s having her boyfriend over and will be meeting his children for the first time.

She goes around and around with the man on the other end of the phone, who doesn’t seem to know much about fixing refrigerators. Then her boyfriend buzzes in on the other line with even more bad news.

But just as she’s having her own emotional meltdown, there’s a surprise twist, and it looks like Thanksgiving won’t be a disaster after all.

“My Turkey Redeemer Liveth” features Jenny Fielding an Shawn Maguire.

Cleary returns to direct “The Holiday Council,” written by Amanda O’Donnell of Bedford, Mass.

The “Council” in this comedy includes all of the major holidays personified in human form. (Santa represents Christmas, the Easter Bunny speaks for Easter, etc.) The council’s goal is to come up with a plan to spice up the holiday lineup, which they feel has become humdrum.

They decide to entertain proposals for a new holiday to add to the calendar, and the winner turns out to be someone unexpected.

The cast for “The Holiday Council” includes Jodie Putnnam, Valerie Whiteneck, Lisa Burdick, Leonard Chasse, Jaime Hennessy, John Pease, Anne Louise Breslin, Andrew Quinney and Blair Howell.

Donna Corbett is back in the director’s seat for “Trimmed to Nothingness,” the final entry in this year’s Suburban Holidays lineup. It’s written by award-winning playwright Steven D. Miller, a Massachusetts native now living in Georgia.

A young husband-to-be is introduced to his fiancé’s family’s unorthodox Christmas rituals, in which Santa Claus isn’t the only element of the holiday that calls for a leap of faith.

There’s more than meets the eye in this holiday parable, which features Barbara Bourgeois, Al Pirnie, Glenn Wakeley, Kathy Bedard and Melissa Reda.

Founded mare than 80 years ago by residents of Wakefield and Reading, the Quannapowitt Players retain a strong Wakefield presence. In addition to their directing and writing duties, Wakefield residents Corbett and Cleary are the producers of this year’s “Suburban Holidays” production.

There are three remaining chances to see “Suburban Holidays Six” at Quannapowitt Playhouse, just over the Reading line at 55 Hopkins St. Performances start at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30, Friday, Dec. 1 and Saturday, Dec. 2.

You’ll enjoy seven plays in two hours and be supporting local arts and artists at the same time.

Tickets for this fundraiser are $20 and can be purchased on-line or call the QP Box Office at 781-942-2212 for reservations. Only checks and cash are accepted at performances.

[This review originally appeared in the November 29, 2017 Wakefield Daily Item.]



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