DASHING THROUGH THE SNOWby Jones Hope Wooten
Mesquite Arts Council
Director: Byron Holder
Stage Manager: Emery Lancaster
Prop & Sound Design: Abel Castillas
Lighting Design and Operator: Rachel Plankey
Set Construction: Richard Bown & Daniel Canon
Set D?cor: Dixie Brohpy & Abel Castillas
Costume Design: Charis C. Szczurek & Emily Hunt
Ennis & Honey Raye: Dana Harrison
Donna Jo & Frankie: Sheila Rose
Paulette & Rhonda: Laura Jennings
Della & Twink: Suzy Dotson
Cuddles & Leonora: Jocelyn Everette
Binky & Ainsley: Daniel Tiner
Hoyt & Raynerd: Robert Dulling
Trina AKA Tom: Michael Specj
Reviewed Performance: 12/2/2012
Reviewed by Mark-Brian Sonna, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Jones Hope Wooten is actually three playwrights. The trio penned the oft-performed, audience- loved The Dixie Swim Club, which has in a matter of a few short years become a classic of the American stage. While they have been criticized for writing plays to the masses without much depth, their comedy is so on point that their plays are critic proof because they are adored by the general public. I happen to be one of the critics that think they deserve more critical praise for their writing because, frankly, it doesn't matter that their plays lack much depth or philosophical insight, they are simply wonderfully written comedies.
This said, Dashing Through the Snow is not as strong as The Dixie Swim Club. The material in the first half of the show isn't as funny. But the second half is pure genius comedy and more than makes up for the first half.
The play is actually four short plays that happen over the four days before Christmas. The setting is in Snowflake Inn, a bed and breakfast that is perennially decorated for the holiday season located in the town of Tinsel, Texas. Each act is a play and there is an intermission after the second act. The entire show clocks in just under two hours. The only character each act has in common is the Inn Keeper, Trina, though in this case it is played by a man hence why he is referred to as Tom in this production. Except for Tom's increasing dismay at an unseen guest who makes increasing demands over the phone speaker there is nothing else besides the location that links these four plays together. The overall effect is one of a sketch comedy. But it is a well-conceived sketch comedy. And with all sketch comedy productions, some work well and others not so much.
The first act or "sketch" deals with Mrs. Santa Clause running off with one of Santa's elves to have a dalliance. There is a delicious twist in all of this that I won't give away but suffice to say it induces quite a few chuckles. The biggest laughs though come before the twist. After it is discovered and brings about a good round of laughter, the play becomes a little too serious for its own good. Enjoyable, yes, but it never reaches the comedic height of the first half.
The second act is about two feuding sisters and the two family members that try to bring about reconciliation. This play has many funny moments but most of the comedy is super-imposed by the actors choices and the direction, not so much by the script itself. It's very cute, but that is all I really have to say about it.
It's after the intermission where Dashing Through the Snow really gets going and the two remaining comedies have a bite to them and some of the funniest lines and situations that I have seen in years.
The third act is about two British thespians on a "bus & truck" tour of A Christmas Carol. They have a funny and ulterior motive for coming to the inn. Once caught by the Inn Keeper, the dialogue is hysterical. Through a series of machinations they end up performing a highly abridged version for the Inn Keeper of the Dickens classic. The five minute re-enacting of A Christmas Carol by the two actors playing all the roles ranks as one of the funniest moments I have ever witnessed on a stage. This scene within this act alone is worth the price of admission.
The fourth act is about four sisters preparing for a last minute wedding. Honey Raye is getting married for the sixth time. Because it's Christmas Eve and the decision to wed was made hours earlier, they are scrambling to get ready. There are no bridesmaids dress stores open nor any way to order food. The ever increasing chaos of this scene is side splittingly funny. It also has a moment of such comedic genius that the entire cast had to hold for several minutes for the laughter to die down in the audience before they could continue with the play. When Honey Raye, masterfully played by Dana Harrison, appears in her wedding outfit, it is so absolutely inappropriate that the visual joke caused a panic of laughter so strong it wouldn't die down, and the laughter would repeatedly erupt every time she would exit or enter the scene in the outfit.
Ms.Harrison plays this role, and each entrance and exit, so well that I rank it as one of the most memorable entrances in any production I have ever seen. I did find out after the performance that Ms. Harrison provided her own riot-inducing costume. A better choice by a performer or costumer couldn't have been made.
What makes Dashing Through the Snow a show worth attending is also the meticulous acting and direction. Every performer is at the top of their game. These are some of the best actors in town and it is a treat to see them all performing in this show. Each gets a moment to shine. Also, there's Dana Harrison with her outrageous entrance in her wedding dress, Sheila Rose's facial expression at having to wear a Renaissance costume as a bridesmaid outfit, Laura Jennings panic at anyone approaching her gout-ridden foot, Suzy Dotson's acerbic characterization of Della's annoyance of her sister, Jocelyn Everett's dismay of being a serious thespian stuck in a small town, Robert Dullnig's thrill of dressing up as a butterfly angel as the dim-witted Rayner, Michael Specks' increasing histrionics in trying to keep the peaceful quiet of the Snowflake Inn and Daniel Tiner's every moment as both the elf Binky and the thespian Ainsley. This cast is glorious to watch and they were expertly directed by Byron Holder.
The production values are wonderful too. The lighting is just right. The set is perfect: it captures the small town feel of a B&B. The costuming is well thought out and with so much humor, it suited every character and situation perfectly.
While the script could have been stronger during the first half, the talent on stage is so strong that it more than compensates for some of the weaker scripted moments. If you want to catch a show that is truly side-splittingly funny, then dash on over to Mesquite and catch Dashing Through the Snow. But hurry you only three performances left!
The Black Box MAC Actors
Mesquite Arts Center, 1527 N. Galloway Avenue, Mesquite, Tx 75149
Running through December 8th
Friday December 7th at 1:00 pm and Saturday December 8th at 1:00 pm & 7:00pm. Tickets are $10.00
For tix and info call 972-216-6444