‘Looking at Christmas’ gets second life via Channel 13

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You would have to be a major league Grinch not to be charmed by the holiday show produced by The Flea Theater, “Looking at Christmas,” which is being telecast by Channel 13 tonight at 10 p.m.

Directed by the Tribeca theater’s artistic director Jim Simpson, the Steven Banks show is a terrific vehicle for the venue’s resident company of young actors, The Bats.

Every year, Simpson hires a new group of just-graduated actors to work on some of the shows and to help out around the theater. (It’s fun to be served a drink by a nice person in the lobby and then find out he or she is one of the leads in that night’s show.)

The Flea uses stars in its major productions, but some of the best shows I’ve seen at the theater have been played by The Bats.

“Looking at Christmas” is a sharp contemporary New York holiday story, set on the streets of the city, where just-fired would-be novelist John (Michael Micalizzi) runs into an exuberant young waitress/actress from the Midwest — Charmian (Allison Buck) — who has only been in town for a few months but is determined to be “the next Meryl Streep.”

It’s Christmas Eve, and Charmian is out to see all of the department store windows — she talks John into joining her.

As these strangers get to know each other, we follow them to Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and Barneys, where they see depictions of Christmas stories running the gamut from “A Christmas Carol” to “The Little Match Girl.”

In each case, after John and Charmian leave, the window figures come to life and comment sardonically on their role in holiday mythology. The result is a delightful mix of sentimentality and cynicism that is the perfect representation of Christmas in Manhattan.

Buck and Micalizzi are wonderful company for 90 minutes and the support they get from their fellow Bats is phenomenal with each of the actors playing multiple parts with tremendous zest and humor. The supporting ensemble consists of Brett Aresco, Crystal Arnette, Holly Chou, Jack Corcoran, Christian Adam Jacobs, Raul Sigmund Julia, Betsy Lippett, Turna Mete, Briana Pozner and John Russo, all of whom are a joy to watch.

If you’re looking for a holiday show with a slight edge, you will love “Looking at Christmas.” It has the feel of a new Christmas perennial.

Joe Meyers

2 Responses

  1. Ken says:

    Caught this show on PBS and it was really great!

  2. It’s good to know there’s something other than the Xmas show at Radio City Music Hall!