Liz on Theatre

Christmas Cards Takes New Spin at Chatham Playhouse

The Chatham Players have introduced a twist on their annual holiday show. This series of vignettes by G. David Post and Steven Ruskin is directed by Amy Sellars and features a mixed cast of children and adults.

Some of the scenarios work very well. Joelle Bochner’s narrative, “8 Little Angels,” is a touching and hilarious as she shifts from narrator to little ones at Christmas. She’s accompanied by Foley Artist, Glen D. Post, with appropriate sound effects.

“A String of Pearls” takes a different tack on the value of giving, with David Kapferer, Maria Brodeur and Julie Anne Nolan. Set in a department store, Pearl (who apparently wraps gifts) is trying to convince Bill that he should give his new wife something more romantic than a vacuum cleaner. As he returns with other gifts, she manages to say ‘no’ they wouldn’t do. Until, of course, he comes up with a piece of jewelry she likes. The plots has adds another layer as we delve beneath the surface.

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Some children read their letters to Santa, which is quite charming. Another entertaining skit involves a Puppy, played with verve by Connie Masterson who yells ‘bark’ whenever she’s addressed.

Then we have “Thief of the North Pole,” with the always amazing Chip Prestera as Ali, who visits Kris Kringle to take back his magic carpet. After the dolly maker (Molly Farrell) explains why they need it one day a year, they all ended up with an agreeable tradeoff.

But some of the scripts are overly long, especially in Act II. And, occasionally some of the youngster’s voices couldn’t be heard on opening night. This seems to be a problem at the Chatham Playhouse. I’m sure they’re fine in rehearsal, but when the audience is there, the sound is absorbed, so these kids need more projection.

A couple of the vignettes didn’t make much sense. “The Haunting of Tannenbaum” seems to be a mix of two guys watching the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” while a mother and daughter are baking cookies and a husband and wife are decorating their Christmas tree. But the link among the three groups really isn’t clear and what is the message?

Nevertheless, the actors, large and small, make this a fun-filled holiday evening. They include Howard Fischer, Aiden English, Molly Farrell, Julia Hearne, and Ginny Crooks.

The backstage crew did a fine job, with set design by Roy Pancirov, costumes by Beverly Wand, lighting by Eric Holgerson, sound and projection by Joe DeVico.

Chatham Players should be commended for introducing a new vision. Performances continue through Dec. 16 at The Chatham Playhouse, 23, North Passaic Avenue in Chatham. For tickets, call 973-635-7363 or visit


Liz Keill reviews professional theatre in the New Jersey area, ranging from the McCarter Theatre in Princeton to Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn. In addition to writing for, she does theatre analysis for HometowneTV in Summit. She holds a Bachelor's in Journalism from Penn State and a Master's in Communication from Syracuse University. Liz is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, which holds seminars at regional theatres across the country as well as in New York City.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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