|"Winter" (Winter Maza) & "Stacia" (Winnie Wenglewick)|
Venue: Denver’s Dangerous Theatre, 2620 W. 2nd Ave #1, Denver, CO
Company: Denver’s Dangerous Theatre Company
Date of Performance: Friday, November 30, 2012 (opening night)
Running Time: 1 hours, 10 minutes (no intermission).
Local Christmas productions tend to be either comical or traditional. “The Perfect Gift” at Denver’s Dangerous Theatre is neither; it breaks the mold by offering us something totally different for this holiday season.
“The Perfect Gift” brings back our memories of the childhood holiday traditions we knew; picking out a live Christmas tree, decorating it (lights first) with perfectly placed tinsel. Back in the day, we spent quality family time together, and argued about whether the perfect tree had long needles or short ones.
We cherish these memories, but these days Christmas is about material things: shopping, with those supposedly “perfect” holiday gifts appearing on store shelves right after Labor Day. Just as Stacia (Winnie Wenglewick) struggles with the holidays, so do we. The meaning is lost in the rush to finish the shopping, the wrapping, the Christmas cards. We forget the real values of the season.
Stacia is not a happy person; in fact, she’s pretty miserable. Her friendship with Winter (Winter Maza), a homeless guy with an invisible friend, seems to be the only relationship she cares about. Winter invites Stacia to his traditional holiday festivities under a bridge with his equally homeless and totally gay friend APJ (j. nick dickert). It is when Stacia sets the table for three that things start to come into focus for her.
Without giving away too much of the story, I’ll just say that Stacia learns some things with her homeless friends, and so do we. Life, love, and loss are universal. And the holiday season is a great time to stop and think about those we have loved, and those we have lost. Could it be that by thinking of them, remembering them, and talking to them from time to time, they are not really lost at all?
Winter Maza and j. nick dickert are convincingly homeless and convincingly wise. They bring a streetwise sassiness to their roles, and smiles to the faces in the audience. They have very little (being homeless is even less glamorous than it sounds), but they live a life they choose. Stacia, on the other hand, lives a life chosen for her by others.
Winnie Wenglewick does it all here; she’s the playwright, the director, and the female lead actor. She does all of it well, but she absolutely shines on the stage as Stacia. She delivers her final speech alone on the stage with all the emotion she can muster. We can feel her love, and her loss. She brings herself and the audience to tears. It’s powerful. It’s personal. And it’s memorable.
“The Perfect Gift” is “perfect” if you’re looking for something different for the holidays. It’s not a “wonderful life.” It’s a real life, and it’s a real holiday. It may not restore your faith in Christmas, but it will focus you on what really matters at the holidays.
And for me, that’s a perfect gift for any season.
This show runs until December 23. Performances on: Thursday (December 13 & 20), Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday matinees (brunch included with tickets). Mature themes and salty language.
Director: Winnie Wenglewick
Winter Maza: Winter
Winnie Wenglewick: Stacia
j. nick dickert: APJ
Maeve Wenglewick: Katie
All photo credits: Denver's Dangerous Theatre.