Monday, May 11, 2009

Christmas Is Miles Away


By Chloe Moss. Directed by Geordie Broadwater. The Connolly Theater. (CLOSED)

"Small". "Cloesly Observed". "Invisible". "Understated". These are some of the adjectives that greet Chloe Moss' play about the relationships (and wars) that tear apart three adolescents. While Alexis Soloski at the Village Voice finds the script and production a wee bit aimless, most of the responses are positive. David Barbour sums it up with his instruction to potential audience members to listen closely through the minimalist dialogue and thick Mancunian accents.

Time Out NY A
(Helen Shaw) Robertson Davies once claimed that art doesn’t create emotion; it reminds us of it. This may be why the delicate Christmas Is Miles Away, Chloe Moss’s tartly insightful drama about three Lancashire teens, manages to punch so far above its weight. On the surface, Christmas is a charming but conventional coming-of-age story. Yet as it unfolds, the play manages to force us to vicariously reexperience the vertigo of youth...The cast (all staggeringly young) seems to be doing nothing at all—perhaps Daniel Zimmerman’s exquisitely realistic bedroom set makes them feel at home. But in fact, all three have mastered stainless Mancunian accents, rattling through Moss’s Brit-slang with a featherlight touch. Everyone—particularly director Geordie Broadwater—does invisible work: The piece seems to have sprung spontaneously into being. It’s funny and wrenching and it will make you feel young again. How can you be blousey about that?

NYPost A-
(Frank Scheck) There are times when the play is too languorous for its own good. But the playwright perfectly captures the social awkwardness of young people struggling to define themselves and the ways in which friends drift apart in life's shifting currents. Director Geordie Broadwater has elicited wonderfully sensitive performances from the cast. Particularly impressive are their accents, which to these admittedly inexpert ears sounded utterly genuine. Authentic, too, are David Zimmerman's wonderfully detailed set of Christie's cluttered room, and the pop soundtrack boasting period-perfect songs from the Smiths and Happy Mondays.

Offoffonline A-
(Doug Strassler) Director Geordie Broadwater and his Babel Theatre Project company have mounted in Christmas Is Miles Away a production that mines the landscape of teen confusion and disaffection at the Connelly Theatre. This is due in large part to Chloe Moss’ perceptive script... The three actors are a major gift to Christmas, locating that precise point in which teenagers can be completely wrapped up in their lives and still emerge as sympathetic.

Theatermania B+
(Chris Balcalzo) Moss has a keen ear for dialogue, and the conversations nicely capture the rhythms of these working class Northern teens. More impressively, the playwright manages to convey the emotional undercurrents that occupy the space between the things that are said aloud and what is not verbally expressed. The three fairly unknown young actors all do excellent work in bringing the play to life. Fast immerses himself in the sullen silences that Christie sometimes lapses into, blurring the line between introspection and self-absorption with the result that Christie ends up shutting out the two people who need him most. Lirtsman's Luke is more outwardly verbose, but hides a melancholy inside that only occasionally breaks through -- but when it does, it's extremely moving. Landham gives the impression of a young woman needing an anchor but continually finding herself adrift. Director Geordie Broadwater should be commended for getting such rich, emotional performances from his cast, as well as for keeping the pace moving quickly through the roughly one hour and 45 minute intermissionless production.

The New York Times B+
(Wilborn Hampton) In Christmas Is Miles Away, Chloe Moss’s well-observed and ultimately engaging three-hander now being staged by the Babel Theater Project, what starts out as a familiar coming-of-age melodrama evolves into a thoughtful antiwar play... Ms. Moss has a fine ear for dialogue, although her teenage characters often articulate an understanding of the changes in their lives beyond their years. She has a good sense of dramatic pacing, sometimes withholding information from one scene to the next. Geordie Broadwater’s fluid direction helps sustain that tension throughout the play’s 11 scenes, and a fine cast of three young actors turn what could be stereotypical adolescents into credible characters.

Lighting & Sound America B
(David Barbour) This is not a drama of fierce confrontations or big moments. But, in its small, tightly focused, scrupulously honest way, Christmas is Miles Away has plenty to say about Christie, Luke, and Julie as they travel their uncomfortable, and often lonely, paths to maturity. Moss understands how young people form intense bonds that can all too quickly come apart, thanks to rapidly changing circumstances and sudden revelations of self-knowledge. In fact, the director, Geordie Broadwater, probably could have varied the emotional range a bit more -- there are times when the scenes are too much of a piece, tonally -- but he has gotten three finely detailed performances from his cast... Christmas is Miles Away is a small short story of a play, and, in its avoidance of manufactured conflicts and outsized emotions, it can seem a little too much of a piece. But Moss understands her characters and how time has its way with them. In its own quiet way, it's an affecting drama.

Village Voice B-
(Alexis Soloski) Moss, an English playwright, has set Christmas near the place and time of her own teendom. It's an appealing if unfocused play about the perils of adolescence. The period details and the brash Northern dialect give the script a splendid specificity. But despite Moss's engaging dialogue, the play feels both excessive and withholding. Scenes go on too long and resist contributing to the plot. The story of the gradual severing of Luke and Christie's friendship—hastened by Christie's acquisition of a girlfriend (Emily Landham)—barely gets told. Moss creates clear characterizations, but seems less than confident about what she wants those characters to do.

TONY A 13; NYP A- 12; OOO A- 12; NYT B+ 11; TM B+ 11; LSA B 10; VV B- 9; TOTAL: 78/7 = 11.14 (B+)

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