J. A. Di Bello’s Review of Christmastown: A Holiday Noir

December 13, 2019

Denizen Theatre

New Paltz

Who’s Naughty and Nice

     A cause for celebration is the one-year anniversary of the Denizen Theatre in New Paltz, and to that end is its gripping staging of Christmastown: A Holiday Noir. To present a seasonal narrative, whether it be a Nativity, Saint Nicholas or a holiday-time fantasy is pretty common fare. However, to add serious spirits (pun intended) to an ordinary, that-time-of-the-year yarn, requires a conspiracy of creative imaginations and forceful determination. The theatrical team at the DENIZEN has demonstrated the necessary attributes and is presenting a hilarious parody, appropriate for the whole family.

In theatre, the art of parody has the potential to appear silly and ill-prepared, and as many a seasoned vet will confess, even disastrous. It’s a fair guess to state that no one knows this better than DENIZEN’s Co-Artistic Director Ben Williamson. He and his stalwart crew of thespians have joined efforts, devoting serious energies to Wayne-Rawley’s Yule-time drama, Christmastown: A Holiday Noir. The DENIZEN has produced a carefully prepared, engrossing comedy noir. As theatre, it’s a dancin’ ‘n’ prancin’ Holiday message effectively unifying the serious concepts of spirit and faith with the hilarity that enables us to endure.

Anyone familiar with the fictional radio character Guy Noir, the hard-boiled private detective, and the ever-present film noir genre will immediately recognize Gio Naarendorp’s brilliant representation of Detective Nick Holiday on the DENIZEN stage. Gio’s task is daunting and exceptionally well presented.   He has the ability to securely hold the stage in this intimate black-box theatre, while sorting out information from a, true-to-genre temptress, the seductive Femme Fatale, Holly Wonderland.

Valerie Lynn Brett convincingly brings Holly Wonderland an unabashed vamp to the stage. You better watch out as Valerie displays an uncanny ability to slink her way unto Detective Nick Holiday’s basket of Holiday cheer, where she deposits an unverified image of Santa in a naughty, unflattering [Can one say, “compromising?”] position with a member the opposite sex [And may one ask “Who’s been naughty and nice?”].

With a Gumshoe’s sack overflowing with Holiday issues, each discovery presents additional questions, some a tad on the predictable side, but always comical. Director Ben Williamson has the events of this narrative dashing through the snow at break-neck speeds, with ne’er a chance to cry or pout.

And action there is, with a hysterical duet of Detective Nick tussled about by centrifugal forces in a one-horse-open auto, driven by his trusty driver Rudy, vividly brought to the stage by Ally Condrath, whose abundant talents appear unlimited! Ally makes things happen in this production, for she too is for all practical purposes the good-cop, bad-cop, i.e., Lieutenant Nice and Detective Naughty, creating a memorable theatrical dynamic. To bring this tale to fruition is Jake Mann as an unwavering Tiny Tim, who neither cries nor pouts. He comes stacked with bum leg and a distinct sense of purpose in each of his several roles. Bravo Jake!

Aside from the acting and a clever script, there are several elements that cause this production to be a worthy adventure. Consider first the minimalist concept of props by a perceptive Co-Artistic Director Brittany Proia and especially the genre appropriate costuming by a talented Chris English. But he real keys that open the stage door and dictate the direction of this production are the minimum-spill follow spots and clever musical score by Noel Cary!!!

Christmastown: A Holiday Noir, will continue its run at the DENIZEN through December 29. Tickets and additional information are available at the box office,

(845) 303-4136, and the company’s web site https://www.denizentheatre.com/


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