QP’s ‘Suburban Holidays’ spotlights local talent

30Nov16

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BY MARK SARDELLA

If supporting the arts and local artists isn’t enough to get you to “Suburban Holidays,” Quannapowitt Players annual theater festival/fundraiser, how about an even better reason? It’s a damn good show!

“Suburban Holidays V” marks the fifth year that QP’s annual winter fundraiser has offered a festival of short plays with holiday themes. This year, two of the eight short plays were written by Wakefield residents (Patrick Cleary and Peter Cosmas Sofronas). Cleary and another Wakefield resident, Donna Corbett, share directing duties, and another Wakefieldian, Brian Sensale, stars in two of the plays.

The show gets off to a strong start with Secret Santa, a clever comedy written by Amanda O’Donnell of Bedford, Mass. and directed by Cleary.

As a family gathers for Christmas Eve, Zach (played by Wilson Belbin) is depressed, mainly because his boyfriend has elected to spend the holiday with his own family. Plus, his sister Kelly gets to have her boyfriend, Greg, with her for Christmas. To add insult to injury, Greg was chosen over Zach to be Santa Claus at the family party.

Valerie Whiteneck plays Zach’s laconically aloof sister Lauren who only stops texting long enough to tease her brother about his plight. She explains her own lack of a Christmas date in four words. “I don’t do feelings.”

Or does she?

Secret Santa also features Blair Howell, Joan Covino, Michele Mount, Andrew Eggers and Chris Rose.

Cleary also directs the second play, Get Closer, written by Lolly Ward of Portland, Oregon.
birthday_holidaySeveral generations of women from the same family gather on Mother’s Day and decide to use the occasion to pose together for their family’s holiday photo. But in the process of taking the photo, secrets surface that threaten to undermine the picture of family bliss.
Get Closer stars Barbara Bourgeois, Jamie Nicole Trevino, Denise Rich, Miranda Cashman and Joan Luz Holt.

Auld Acquaintance – a short comic Mystery, is written by Adam Heroux of Reading and Directed by Donna Corbett of Wakefield.

Heroux has written a brilliant and hilarious send-up of British manor mysteries where the invited weekend guests all become suspects in a mysterious death. In this case, the deceased is the owner of the country house, Sir Whitney, a famous author who was found dead by his butler while working on his latest novel.

In addition to the butler, the cast includes all of the genre stereotypes: the refined Lady Pinkington; the cockney brawler, Oliver Cox; “The Colonel,” an upper crust, monocled business tycoon; and of course, the sultry and mysterious Russian seductress, Miss Ruskova.

The assembled guests are told by Detective Beckett Collie that the book that the deceased author was finishing at the time of his untimely death contains scandalous clues about all in attendance that will lead to the murderer.

Auld Acquaintance features Shawn Maguire, Paul Warner, Lisa Burdick, Valerie Whiteneck, Ed Siegal and Gus Pirnie.

The next play, Ms. Claus, was written by Patrick Gabridge of Medford and is directed by Cleary.

Santa Claus has decided to retire. So a three man-board is interviewing candidates to replace the mythical figure when Tina, (played by Joan Luz Holt) arrives for her interview. The men are taken aback and insist that Santa Claus has to be a man. They point to the heavy lifting and the rigorous holiday travel schedule.

But Tina counters that she’s qualified, having worked for UPS and as a chimney sweep. The board offers her the job of Mrs. Claus or the Tooth Fairy (who is also retiring) but Tina insists that the time has come for a female Santa.

Ms. Claus also features Gus Pirnie, Glenn Wakeley and Jon Nuquist.

liquid_loveLiquid Love, written by New Jersey playwright Robert Scott Sullivan, is a clever comedy that takes place on New Year’s Eve. Gillian has decided that she will give up either wine or coffee for the New Year. The two vices appear as her New Year’s Eve suitors, each determined not to be the one left behind.

“Wine” is played by Wakefield’s Brian Sensale wearing a burgundy shirt. Paul Warner, clad in rich, dark colors, plays “Coffee.”

As each beverage pleads his case to Gillian, their mutual antagonism surfaces. “Back off Joe!” Wine yells at Coffee. “Stop being so bitter!”

Liquid Love is directed by Donna Corbett.

pineapple_girlPineapple Girl is written and directed by Wakefield’s own Patrick Cleary and features a time-traveling sociologist along with historical figures Euphemia Allen (composer of “Chopsticks”) and Ruth Wakefield (inventor of the Tollhouse Cookie).

A mother is worried about her precocious loner of a daughter, who has decided to bring a pineapple as her date to her first middle school dance.

The sociologist is traveling through time collecting examples of women who accomplished great things at a very young age in order to show them to the people of her future time who have become dull and homogeneous as a result of technology.

But something goes wrong when the time traveler accidentally influences events from the past.

Pineapple Girl stars Casey Stevenson, Jenny Fielding, Kerry Anne Kilkelly, Phyllis Uloth and Rachel Rabinovitz.

In A Teacher’s Carol, written by Brittany Daley of Saugus, a middle school teacher attempts to navigate her rambunctious sixth graders through the final four hours of school before holiday break. Meanwhile, the teachers are in the midst of a heated competition to see whose class can collect the most hats and mittens for the needy. Donna Corbett directs.

qp-suburban-11-20-16-35In the final play, A Birthday is Not a Holiday written by Wakefield’s Peter Cosmas Safronas, a husband Chris (Jon Nuquist), whose birthday falls on Dec. 25, engages in a good-natured battle with his wife Sarah (Sharon Mason) to have his birthday take precedence over Christmas just once.

He’s celebrated his birthday on Dec. 26 plenty of years, he argues. Can’t they just one time celebrate his birthday on Dec. 25 and do Christmas on the 26th?

But Sarah won’t give in. A holiday can’t be moved, she tells him, but a birthday can, because “a birthday is not a holiday.”

Or is it?

Standouts among this group of plays are Secret Santa, Auld Acquaintance, Liquid Love and Pineapple Girl. But all of the plays in Suburban Holidays V are clever and original in their own way. For a modest price, you’ll be supporting local community theater and you’ll get more than your money’s worth of entertainment.

The final three performances of Suburban Holidays V are Thursday, Dec. 1, Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday. Dec. 3. All shows are at 8 p.m. at Quannapowitt Playhouse, 55 Hopkins St., Reading. Purchase tickets online or phone 781-944-2212.

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