Donald Margulies' Coney Island Christmas Premiere To Star Angela Paton, Arye Gross, Annabelle Gurwitch
By Kenneth Jones
Coney Island Christmas, billed as a "Jewish Christmas show" for people of all ages and all faiths, by Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies, will star Arye Gross and Isabella Acres, among others, in its world premiere at Geffen Playhouse.
The Geffen commission by the playwright of Brooklyn Boy, Dinner With Friends, Collected Stories, Sight Unseen and Time Stands Still will begin Nov. 20 prior to a Nov. 28 opening on the mainstage Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen in Los Angeles. Margulies won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Dinner With Friends.
The work "weaves together nostalgia, music and merriment," according to the not-for-profit, introducing us to "Shirley Abramowitz [played by Acres], a young Jewish girl who, much to her immigrant parents' exasperation, is cast as Jesus in the school's Christmas pageant. Mr. and Mrs. Abramowitz [portrayed by Arye Gross of Broadway's Brooklyn Boy and TV's "Castle," and Annabelle Gurwitch of TV's "Dinner and a Movie"], with the help of a much-older Shirley, brought to life by Angela Paton (Broadway's Harvey), capture a timeless and universal tale of what it means to be an American during the holidays."
The cast also includes Elitia Daniels, Maya Erskine, Julian Evens, Joe Gillette, Rachel Hirshee, Lily Holleman, Gracie Kaufman, John Sloan, Kira Sternbach and Andrew Walke, "who play a host of colorful characters ranging from neighborhood mothers to Shirley's classmates and teachers." Two more actors are yet to be cast.
Coney Island Christmas is based on the Grace Paley short story "The Loudest Voice." Bart DeLorenzo, the founding artistic director of L.A.'s Evidence Room theatre company, will direct. This production marks Margulies' fifth and DeLorenzo's fourth project with the Geffen. They previously collaborated on Shipwrecked!, "which shares similar fantastical elements with Coney Island Christmas."
The hope of the Geffen management is that this will become an annual holiday show there. It began as a conversation between Margulies and Geffen Playhouse founder Gil Cates. It became a commission. Margulies is dedicating this world-premiere production to the memory of Cates, who died in fall 2011.
Performances play to Dec. 30. The production team includes set designer Takeshi Kata, costume designer Ann Closs Farley, lighting designer Lap Chi Chu, sound designer John Ballinger, production stage manager Jill Gold, assistant stage manager Kyra Hansen.
For more information, visit geffenplayhouse.com.
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