It's a Wonderful Life

By Peter Sylvester
Directed by Peter Sylvester
Synchronicity Space (Closed)
Review by Adrienne Onofri

The characters in this new play sit in a Manhattan bar watching the movie ``It's a Wonderful Life'' and wonder when an angel will come along and redeem them as he did Jimmy Stewart. Unlike Jimmy Stewart, their dreams do not come true at the end and they don't discover that life itself is a gift. Only a few of them take steps toward turning around their disappointing lives. Without such concrete conclusions, the play is ultimately unsatisfying.

The play is a true ensemble piece, and the 11 actors admirably handle it as such. The fault lies with author Peter Sylvester for choosing to concentrate on some of the less intriguing characters and creating unexceptional scenarios for them.

The play takes place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a neighborhood bar. One of the regulars, a Christmas tree salesman named Will (William Charles Mitchell), is smitten with a mysterious young woman (Raissa Radell) who almost bought a tree from him. The woman, Clara, shows up at the bar, seeking company during what apparently is the first Christmas since she separated from her husband. She sweetly tells stories of the idyllic family Christmases of her childhood and, after initially fending off Will's advances, agrees to have dinner with him.

Another regular in the bar is Bobby (Jeff Kronson), a Circle Line tour guide who has occupied the same barstool since his girlfriend moved out to Hollywood 30 years ago. Bobby now regrets not going with her and chasing his own dreams of stardom.

These are the storylines that get the most attention, and they are among the few that reach any sort of conclusion. Curiously, the negative denouement to the Will-Clara affair is more interesting than the upbeat resolution to Bobby's predicament. Bobby's long-awaited reunion with his old girlfiiend Diane (Nora Colpman) turned out to be rather dull for the audience, since it brought no surprise revelations, the poignancy was contrived, and Colpman spoke in a monotone.

Between the insufficient development of some characters and a generally uneventful script, the play fails to rise above mediocrity. It doesn't say anything new about the despondency people may feel during the holidays, and it doesn't particularly give them hope. Its one standout was the set design by Mark Symczak. (Also featuring Julianne Carpenter, Chris Burmester, Bruce Mohat, Samme Johnston Spolan, Dennis Carrig, Duane Lanham, and Elaine Bradbury; Lighting, David Alan Comstock; Costumes, C. Byron Wood.)

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 2
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 2
Copyright 1996 Adrienne Onofri
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