Northlight Theatre presents
CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS
At 9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie
Written by Paula Vogel
Directed by Henry Godinez
Musial direction by Chuck Larkin
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 7pm
Wednesdays at 1pm
Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30pm
Thru December 26th
Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the city, a child was missing and the weather was.... Northlight Theatre presents CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS, a holiday history lesson. It's December 24, 1864 in DC. Along the Potomac River, a nation is divided. The ghosts of Christmas past share their recollection of that holiday. It's a mix of the famous and ordinary on the momentous eve along the river bank. The Lincolns shop. General Lee broods. General Grant drinks. Clara Barton heals. Elizabeth Keckley sews. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writes. John Wilkes Booth conspires. Significant moments from normal folks are weaved into these historical reenactments. A runaway slave loses her daughter. A husband vows revenge. A kid joins the army. The stories interconnect with holiday spirit. CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS is an Auld Lang Syne musical present.
From lights up, the stories engage with a poignant intimacy as the cast carols their way through the audience to the stage. Under the direction of Henry Godinez, the multi-talented ensemble morph into a variety of characters, including a horse. Shared narration helps identify stories in the complex history lesson. The large cast is outstanding in numerous roles with memorable take-aways. The powerhouse singing of Felicia P. Fields leads the way. Fields connects with all the sound and soul of an entire church choir. Driven by retribution, James Earl Jones II drops his hardness to describe his wife with a hopeful, loving rendition of "Yellow Rose of Texas." Always humorously animated, Alex Goodrich goes from soldier to horse with surprising physicality. Paula Scrofano plays Mary Todd with splendid manic moments. Derek Hasentab's characters are so wonderfully distinct that it seems like he's subcontracting parts. Kevin Douglas and Samuel Roberson play well together and individually for some comedic moments in the drama. Mildred Marie Langford and Khori
Faison are the sentimental favorites in their agonizing search for each other. Bethany Jorgensen transforms from fiddle player to earnest boy soldier. Will Clinger IS a reincarnated President Lincoln. David Girolmo delivers a moving recitation of Longfellow's poem that was composed on that holiday...
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
Playwright Paula Vogel penned a comprehensive holiday tale. Although the details intrigue post show to read more about Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Surratt, and Moses Levy, some of the introductions of characters like cabinet members are ancillary to the basic stories. Since there is no quiz, the history lesson could be trimmed to avoid unnecessary convolution. CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS is a glimpse back at a country at war with each other. Being an American was secondary to being a northerner or southerner. In today's tumultuous political climate, it's important to note it's been a lot worse. The period piece also reminds us that being out of coffee didn't end up as a Starbuck's solution. The holidays are a perfect time to seek peace and good will in ourselves and each other. With all the holiday play options reruns of seasonal favorites, CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS is a new American holiday classic as a 'it's a wonderful life' present.
Production photography courtesy of Liz Lauren.
Filed under: Northlight Theatre
Tags: Alex Goodrich, Bethany Jorgensen, Chuck Larkin, David Girolmo, Derek Hasenstab, Felicia Fields, Henry Godinez, James Earl Jones II, Katy Walsh, Kevin Douglas, Khori Faison, Mildred Marie Langford, Northlight Theatre, Paula Scrofano, Paula Vogel, Review Civil War Christmas, Samuel Roberson, Will Clinger