Oakland one-acts are delightful

Saturday, December 8, 2007

YOUNGSTOWN – The Oakland Center for the Arts is known for its willingness to take risks.

Its avante garde and risque shows are sometimes hard to stomach, with deep and meaningful shows that speak of human nature and society.

"Season's Greetings" and "The Santaland Diaries," written by David Sedaris, are nothing of the sort.

The two one-act performances are delightful holiday performances that are brightly humorous while telling painfully dark stories through a single performer. These performers shine in the complex roles.

First is Grace Vouvalis as Jocelyn Dunbar in "Season's Greetings," directed by Brooke Slanina. She tells an emotionally captivating story of a woman grasping to keep her family, and herself, pulled together during the holidays.

It is endearing, while painfully tragic, beginning as a letter to family and turning into a deeply personal story of coping. Vouvalis was a beautiful choice for this role, able to captivate the audience in a diverse range of emotion.

Holidays are the best time for dysfunctional family stories.

The second performance features Eric McCrea as Crumpet the Elf in "Santaland Diaries," directed by Valley24.com "Fat Camp" blogger Robert Dennick Joki.

The story of Crumpet the Elf is a look at Macy's Santaland, telling all of the dirt of the other elves and santas. Along the way, the audience gains more insight into the life and personality of Crumpet the Elf, who dreams of being in a soap opera.

McCrea did a wonderful job in his performance, handling even the most of absurd of lines with surety. (And there was more absurdity than anything else.) Even an on-stage costume change didn't slow him down, as he skillfully carried on with the performance as only a seasoned — or well rehearsed — actor could.

Overall, the two one-acts paired to make for a wonderful evening at the Oakland. The two stories certainly aren't traditional holiday shows. But they tell emotionally powerful tales of people around the holidays through strong performances.

Although tragic in nature, the humor and beauty woven into the scripts, as well as their execution, make for a wonderful holiday evening.