Minute for minute, the best holiday-themed drama around
MARK LOWRY
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
 
DALLAS--A few lessons in how to stage an entertaining holiday-themed performance, according to the 12 titles of the 2003 installment of Ground Zero Theater Company's annual 10-minute play festival, Christmas at Ground Zero, directed by Matt Tomlanovich and Wm. Paul Williams.
 
* Write good drama: Matthew Dickson's The Giver; and Valerie Brogan Powell's Nativity, in which a brother and sister (John Hanners and Jane Willingham) argue over their deceased mother's Nativity scene. It's a funny and touching story that's well-told in only 10 minutes.

* Satirize holiday tradition and commercialism: Deni Krueger's Jupiter, also a sweet story about Rick (Brian Witkowicz) and his affection for Amanda (Andra Laine); and Robert Myers-Morgan's clever Yule Pay for That, in which greedy marketing exec Sellers (Sean Perez) hatches a scheme for a new Christmas anti-hero, Blizarre, who will eventually usurp that pesky Santa Claus.

* Incorporate mythology: David Gunderson's The Tooth Fairy's Christmas Wish; and Allene Rasmussen Nichols' hilarious One Flew Over the Candy Cane, in which Snow White's evil queen Merry (Valerie Hauss-Smith) and Cinderella's stepsister Esmerelda (Laine) must pay for their crimes by painting toy trains in a halfway house for evildoers, run by Sleeping Beauty's now-reformed villain Rowena (Willingham).

* Use holiday-theater in-jokes: Mary Scarborough's Mother Martha Does Scrooge; and Vicki Caroline Cheatwood's heartwarming A Visit with St. Nick.

* Have fun with current events: Isabella Russell-Ides' funny, uneducated-right-winger-bashing Think Thanks; and Michael Merschel's funnier An American Christmas, in which two federal agents (Perez and Ben Casey) interrogate possible terrorist Santa Claus (Hanners) on un-American activities.

* Sleigh 'em with laughter: Two works by James Venhaus, both starring the talented Laine. In Santa's Little Helper, she's the woman at a Kinko's office Christmas party who gives men a little action -- and more; and in Happy Holidays from Anderson, Davis, Seton & Fenner, she's a receptionist nearly driven to the edge by a barrage of phone calls.

Christmas at Ground Zero

Through Dec. 20; 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive, Dallas

$10-$15

(214) 943-5120

Mark Lowry, (817) 390-7747 mlowry@star-telegram.com