Happy Holidays with great Holiday Theatre this week!

Holiday Theatre, have it your way this week, with three great options, “A Christmas Story”, “A Christmas Carol”, and a love story, excavated and unlocked from the sands of time, in Perloff’s “Luminescence Dating”.

“A Christmas Carol”, - - a great Christmas gift that should be on your list!

Beginning with The Center Repertory Company’s production of Charles Dicken’s classic tale of greed, hard times and social redemption, “A Christmas Carol”, the joy and opportunities of sharing the love and warmth of the Christmas Season can get into full swing. Director Scott Denison has opened up the heart of the Center Repertory theatrical community with this wonderful timeless story, in a very strong production that will be appreciated by young and old alike. Denison employ’s the same beautifully constructed set, designed years ago by Kelly Tighe, that is so familiar to Center Rep audiences, and follows basically the same retelling of the tale, but with subtle differences that brings a new life and vibrancy to the show.

Jack Powell returns for his third time to this theater as the cantankerous and mean-spirited icon of greed and loneliness, Ebenezer Scrooge. The forgiving, hardworking and honorable employee, Bob Cratchit, is played memorably by Mike Dederian, and Mrs. Cratchit is reprised again by the always loving motherly figure and didactic protector of family values, Kerri Shawn.
There are far too many excellent portrayals to begin to give appropriate kudos’, but this production is probably one of the best given to date by this company, due in large part to the believability and warmth engendered. Scrooge’s Nephew, Fred, is played very well by Michael Wiles; the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Christmas Present are played most delightfully by Jennifer Denison Parry and Michael Wiles; and Tiny Tim is played well by second grader, Evan Lachman. Michael Wiles has to be one of the most popular Ghosts of Christmas Present ever as he imparts a thoroughly delectable child-like highlander impishness to his character.

This cast is well represented by a broad spectrum of local actors, both neophyte and professional, actors that move the show smoothly and succinctly from the dark, cold accounting offices of Scrooge and Marley to the hustling, bustling winter streets of Elizabethan England.

This often told tale just seems to set the Christmas spirit of giving and caring about others in proper motion! The Center Repertory Company’s production plays early this Wednesday at 9:30 am; again at 12:30 pm, then, Thursday at 12:30 pm and again at 8 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm and 8 pm, and closing Sunday, December 17th, after a 2 pm performance. Call the Center Ticket Office at (925) 943-7469 (SHOW) or stop by the Barnes and Noble ticket outlet in Walnut Creek or visit Center Rep's website at www.dlrca.org for more information. The theater is located in the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts at 1601 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek. Tickets range from a very reasonable $14 to $38 per person.

“A Christmas Story” – a great movie and a great show brought to the stage!

I also suggest that you take a little trip down the 680 freeway to San Jose to see San Jose Repertory Theater’s fun-filled contemporary Christmas comedy, “A Christmas Story”, the all-American story made famous by the 1983 movie of the same title. Taken from Jean Shepherd’s book, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and adapted for the stage by playwright Philip Grecian (with all the delightful elements that made the movie such a great hit), this play is a must see for the best in Christmas fare! You might remember the movie starring Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon and Peter Billingsly, as the young man, Ralphie Parker, whose almost perfect world would be just that if only Santa would bring him a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.

Director John McCluggage has selected an all-star cast to present this very funny and heart-warming tale of a lower-middle-class American family life around Christmas time in the 1940’s, with a not-completely-perfect American family center to the tale.

Dan Hiatt plays the narrator and the main character, Ralphie, as a grown up, reminiscing about his boy-hood and his quest for the ultimate Christmas gift, an “Official 200 shot. Red Ryder Range Model Carbine BB gun” with a compass and sundial in the stock.

The colorful parents, Father, played by Howard Swain and Mother, played by Nancy Carlin (who in real life are husband and wife) are outrageously perfect in their portrayal. Howard and Nancy are always superb in their individual theatrical portrayals, but it is truly delightful to see them playing this rather unique and colorful married couple, the Parkers. Ralphie Parker, as a boy, is played exceptionally well by Zachary Frier-Harrison and his little brother, Randy, is played by Evan Coleman.

Dan Hiatt reiterates a wonderful tale of a nine-year old growing up in Middle America and the comic intrigue as he pursues his cowboy hero’s trusty firearm, a replica BB gun. However, every time he mentions to someone that he wants a BB gun, he is warned, “you will shoot your eye out”! Despite these warnings, he begins a campaign to achieve his goal. The process ranges from writing a theme for his teacher, Miss Shields, about the “The Perfect Christmas Gift” (hoping to enlist her help); to deluging his parents with BB Gun advertisements left everywhere in his family’s home; to his trip to Goldblatt’s Department Store to plead with the Department Store Santa for his ultimate gift.

In addition to Ralphie’s quest for a BB gun, the story touches on many other family peculiarities, including his father’s obsession with cross-word puzzles, hoping to win a prize offered by the local news paper. Of course, with Mother’s help, dad wins the crossword puzzle prize, which turns out to be a marvelously unusual “Leg Lamp”, that dad has to display in the front window for all his neighbors to see, much to his wife’s disdain. There are a lot of other adventures, involving the neighbor’s pesky dogs, Father’s longing for the proverbial Christmas Turkey and the Christmas dinner in a Chinese restaurant, that are uproariously funny.

This terrific production plays Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., now through December 30th . Tickets range in price from $14 to $56. For tickets or reservations call the box office at (408) 367-7255 or visit their web-site at www.SJRep.com for more information.

The San Jose Repertory Theater is located at 101 Paseo de San Antonio, between south 2nd and 3rd streets, in the heart of San Jose. There is free public parking available after 6 p.m. each day in a multistoried garage (at the corner of East San Carlos Avenue, between south 2nd and 3rd streets) adjacent the theatre. On a typical Friday or Saturday evening, it generally takes my wife and I about 45 minutes to drive south on highway 680 (which becomes hwy 280) to the 7th street off ramp, in San Jose, were we exit and drive the short distance to the theater. I have gone to “www.Mapquest.com” on the internet and printed out excellent maps showing clearly where the theater is located and how to get there. I might also suggest that you drive to San Jose earlier on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday and enjoy dinner or lunch at one of the many excellent restaurants in the area before the show. San Jose has done a lot of improvements in the area and it feels very clean and safe for visitors.

“Digging, Dating and Dirt, oh my!” – The West Coast Premier of “Luminiscence Dating” is a show about archeology and love, you are bound to DIG!

The final review this week is the West Coast Premier of a new play by ACT’s Artistic Director, Carey Perloff, a romantic archeological intrigue entitled, “Luminescence Dating”, in the Magic Theatre at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

In what can only be described as smart, clever, humorous and at the same time, mesmerizing, “Luminescence Dating” melds mythology, mystery, and romance into an articulate, brilliantly written story of love, both archaic and contemporary; professional pursuits (academic and scientific); and archeological discovery.

As I waited for the show to begin, a woman sitting next to me inquired if I was familiar with this play and whether it was rife with scientific references and information. She explained that her native language was Spanish and that while she spoke English quite fluently, she was concerned that she and her sister who was sitting next to her would have difficulty in comprehending the context of the story, if it were overly technical. I assuaged her concerns and after the show, she raved about how powerful and inspired the writing was. I have to agree wholeheartedly.

Angela Hart (played by Rene Augesen) is an archeologist who is obsessed with an archeological mystery, the whereabouts of a purportedly lost statue of Aphrodite. One of her colleagues, Nigel Edwards (played by Stephen Barker Turner), another archeologist with whom she had become romantically involved at an earlier time in their lives, has come back into her life through an archeological dig that he is involved with, that may provide some clues or answers to her quest.

There is a very strong undercurrent of emotion underlying their current discussions, due in large part to their previous unrequited or apparently failed romantic relationship.

A third closely involved character is a friend and associate of Angela’s, Victor Reid (played by Gregory Wallace), who had previously been a student of Nigel’s when Nigel was one of his instructors in College. Victor is decidedly gay and an academic, currently an instructor of a course he has created, entitled “Queer Theory”, a class that investigates aspects of homosexuality in Greek society and the Greek military. Nigel’s archeological field of endeavor and greatest interest is that of military history, therein lies the connection between Victor and Nigel, and not necessarily a pleasant and constructive connection. Victor is trying to gain access to some of Nigel’s knowledge that may benefit his study course, and Nigel is so homophobic that he cannot be very objective in assisting Victor.

What transpires is a sequence of events that force them to collaborate and through this collaboration, comes what appears to be a profound discovery, a profound re-evaluation of the purpose of a site that Nigel had thought to be the scene of a military battle; the re-evaluation of a theory about the origins of the Aphrodite statue and perhaps even its ultimate disposition.

There is a fourth character, a cleaning woman (played by Ching Valdes-Aran) who appears to be the spirit of Aphrodite, who chimes in from time to time, giving the researchers pause to reflect and renewed purpose in their endeavors.

This is an exciting writing, expertly directed by Mark Rucker, that I predict will soon be come a highly respected and sought after new work I wish I had more time and space to explore more fully the clever lines of text that are born in this remarkable play.

“Luminescence Dating” continues Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and on Sunday the 17th at 2:30 p.m., in Building “D” at Fort Mason in San Francisco, now through December 23. You may call the Magic Theatre Box Office at (415) 441-8822 or visit their website at www.magictheatre.org for additional information. Tickets range between $20 to $45 and there is parking available in the Fort Mason Complex.