The Theatre Tattler reviews The Holi Poly Plays

The Holi Poly Plays, written by D.S Burrows
American Theatre of Actors 314 W. 54th Street presented Nov. 29-Dec. 4th, 2022

A review by Yvonne Tutelli, The Theatre Tattler

Scampering from lower Manhattan to midtown west, avoiding the Sunday seasonal shoppers, and free-wheeling pot street entrepreneurs, I found myself meeting an old friend, James Jennings, near the elevator at the infamous American Theater of Actors.

“I made this place,” Jim told my guest.

I know– I’ve been coming here for 40 years and so have many other actors and directors who’ve gone onto fame and fortune. And Jim has always provided theatre space for small and larger productions, new works, and new and seasoned actors, priding himself on giving actors, writers and directors a place to showcase their work and/ or mount their developing full-scale productions.

D.S Burrows wrote these 8 holiday skits, each 12-20 minutes long, each covering some familiar New York-themed universal holiday scenario to which we all can relate. Its an evening of short works highlighting the memory of holiday traditions. Burrows also shared directorial duties with two others, Art Bernal, a house director at ATA, and
Martin Pfefferkorn.

The afternoon began with “Kiss”, a story of a playwright, his best friend, and his girlfriend. Nick Ambrose (David) recognizes early on that his girlfriend is a lousy actress. His best friend Billy (Jared Wilder) is directing David’s play. Sandy, the girlfriend (Lauren Proda), swoons at best pal Billy’s advances. In the end, David saves his play from mutilation, cancelling them both. Then Billy and Sandy’s betraying kiss leads them to pursue a west coast pipe dream, and David resurrects his play. This piece was directed by Martin Pfefferkorn. Silly and fun, the actors rolled with the dialogue and Sandy and David became part of the show’s fabric, weaving each of the afternoon’s pieces into a delightful afternoon.

“Sauce,” directed by Dirk Burrows, explores the relationship of a mother and her visiting daughter near Thanksgiving. Rose (Susan McCullum), the mother, is rather set in her ways, and her apparent hit-man business, which is the family business. She will neither taste nor entertain Marie’s (Michelle Macau) enthusiastic efforts to pitch an amazing
cranberry sauce recipe. In fact, Rose goes so far as to suggest she’d have Marie knocked off herself if she even tries to introduce the sauce to the upcoming dinner festivities. Marie’s delightful recently-out-of-the slammer-ex-con countenance is as comic as her accent. She’s been on the inside long enough to come up with a dream: marketing the sauce that Rose’s mother simply forgot was her own creation until she’s forced to take a bite and remember.

Next up, “Butterball,” is a face-off scene in a Quicky Mart where Grace (Sharlene Hartman) waits for her ex-husband’s new partner Francine (Pamela Joy) to come at last minute to pick up a bird. The problem is, Grace has purchased all the Butterball turkeys in the vicinity leaving Francine not-a-one anywhere with which to please her
man, (Grace’s ex) on his favorite holiday. A fight ensues and the comic timing of both actors led the hilarity. Directed by D.S.Burrows.

“Angel” stars Pamela Joy (Angel) as a misunderstood satanist celebrating life and pleasure. Her co-worker, John, played by the versatile Nick Ambrose, is the unsuspecting co-worker who doesn’t realize this Angel, despite appearances, ain’t one! Angel’s efforts in using her satanic methods to destroy the affectionately willing John are
part of a scheme to upset the office hierarchy, but her plans fall flat when John announces he’s just been fired.
One of the most important holiday traditions in NYC is the annual New York Runners Club Marathon. Marika Daciuk (Rose) and Steve Shoup (Jimmy) are a long-time married couple with a secret or two between them. Burrows deftly sets the scene at a Central Park park bench, following Rose’s marathon completion, for the uncovering of
their hidden historical wounds and a look at what‘s at stake. This is another one of my favorite scenes: both actors comfortably worn in their characters, totally believable. The outcome is a step in the right direction for all involved. “Marathon” is directed by Art Bernal.

Mark Christoper Gordon (Brent) and Victoria Freedman (Tess) authentically portray a couple meeting in a public library, where Mark gifts Victoria a dreidel. Spinning the dreidel ends up being an all-important seasonal game this year, as it will settle Tess’ big decision. Her embracing of the Chanukah tradition determines the fate of their unborn
child, and whether the child will be raised as a Jew or a Christian. A nice touch to this collection of playlets. This is “Dreidel,” directed by Art Bernal.

Sister Molly (Sharlene Hartman) and brother Jimmy (Joe Spano) meet in a restaurant shed in NYC after a long time of not seeing each other. Politically and socially they are worlds apart. Molly’s a Democrat and Jimmy admits to being involved with the Capitol mayhem of January 6th. It’s her intent to bring the divided family together. With her,
Molly carries a sprig of mistletoe, hoping to conjure a memory strong enough to encourage Jimmy to visit their estranged parents and encourage a holiday kiss to bring all of them out of their isolation. “Misteltoe” was also written and directed by D.S. Burrows.

The final playlet of the matinee “Champagne” was directed by D.S Burrows. It features enigmatic actor Sharleen Hartman (Lana) and her scene partner, the equally watchable Jeffrey Vause (Richard). Lana has land-staked a site in a remote area of Central Park, pitched a tent and talked reluctant Richard into a New Year’s Eve copulation date that
will hopefully result in a child for her—if Richard can get past the fact that he’s gay and the whole concept seems absolutely foreign to him.

Special kudos to Karolina Larion, Stage Manager and her assistant Bennett Ferguson as well as Nick Ambrose for his maser of ceremony duties. The Holy Poli Plays 2022 was just what the doctor ordered for a cold gray holiday afternoon.

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