Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

December 7, 2020

REVIEW: TheaterWorks, (Virtual) "Christmas On The Rocks"

TheaterWorks, Hartford, CT
through December 31, 2020
by Jarice Hanson
As the iconic Jerry Herman song says, “We need a little Christmas this year.” Thanks to TheaterWorks in Hartford, audiences can stream a top notch production of what has become a holiday tradition. For eight years TheaterWorks has produced “Christmas On The Rocks,” a laugh-out-loud comedy for adults that reminds us of the Holiday Specials we knew as children. Six of the seven short segments feature two actors—the featured “character” and the bartender in a run-down tavern on Christmas Eve. In the last segment—well, you just have to see this, because it’s the bow that wraps the whole package! 
This year’s "Rocks" was recorded for home streaming with a special creative twist.  The performers include last year’s cast as well as both ‘men’ from previous seasons - so audiences are treated to the talents of Jenn Harris, Randy Harrison, Matthew Wilkas and Harry Bouvy, with Ted Lange joining virtually from the West Coast as the Voice of the Bartender. The stream is recorded from the perspective of the bartender, and the creative set by Michael Schweikardt and costumes by Alejo Vietti pop on your television or computer screen. Director Rob Ruggeiro, who conceived of the original play, leaves his creative fingerprints all over this year’s virtual production and has come up with an adaptation for the screen that works beautifully.
While “Christmas On The Rocks” is, in itself, a fresh take on holiday fare (along with a few cocktails to set the mood) the wonderfully creative plays by John Cariani, Jeffrey Hatcher, Jacque Lamarre, Theresa Rebeck and Edwin Sanchez weave a spell of nostalgia, humor, pathos, and memories of holidays past. While in the physical theater audiences might react in part to the interaction of the actors, material, and audience responses—this production leaves room for the laughs and still provides the emotion to warm your heart. It’s as fulfilling as a good jolt of spiked egg nogg and it packs the same wallop. 
While many theaters are experimenting with reaching their audiences with virtual programming, TheaterWorks has deftly delved into exploring the medium of video and the distribution form of streaming with exceptional success. They keep the joy and creativity of theater alive and remind us that a good story, well told by people who understand how to communicate with audiences, will keep theater alive until we can share space in an actual venue again. This year, perhaps giving the gift of theater and laughter to your friends and family by way of buying them a ticket to attend “Christmas On The Rocks” can be a way of sharing this Christmas with those you love.