New York Theatre Workshop’s current performance, A Civil War Christmas, depicts a nostalgic recollection of America’s history in the most turbulent of times. Sumaya Bouhbal, Jonathan-David, K.Todd Freeman, Amber Iman, Karen Kandel, Sean Allan Krill, Chris Henry, Rachel Spencer Hewitt, Antwayn Hopper, Alice Ripley, and Bob Stillman play a multitude of characters who, despite living in entirely separate lives with different motives and aspirations, are able to hold off their grudges for one night and celebrate Christmas as one united country. Written by Paula Vogel and directed by Tina Landau, the show is sure to please many.
I would like to commend Tina Landau for her exceptional directing skills. While viewers may have trouble comprehending and keeping track of the numerous side stories, Landau uses small, yet crucial stage directions that help the viewer weave together all the elements to create a cohesive whole. By including vignettes in the background while one scene is happening at the center, the viewer can choose to either focus on each scene individually or view the war as a whole, an amalgamation of many smaller factors.
To write, direct, and perform a play on the Civil War, to weave everything together into a Christmas theme, and to condense history into two hours without taking away any important, historical information is incredibly difficult to achieve, but A Civil War Christmas proves to us that nothing is impossible. Audience members need not worry about keeping track of every single detail mentioned in the play; they simply need to sit, relax and enjoy the play as it is. The entire cast and producers make an extensive effort to keep the audience both informed and engaged. That in itself deserves recognition.
By the end of the play, all of the sub-plots are weaved together and we are able to understand the overarching conclusion. Paula Vogel assures the audience in that no matter how complicated history or how diverse every person’s life may be, enemies, friends, and strangers will all come together to celebrate the joys of Christmas.
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