I have a policy of not reviewing shows that are presented annually. Most, if not all, of these are holiday shows. But I DO review new plays, even if they are holiday-themed and might become annual. There’s one of those this year, at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. It’s called 1222 Oceanfront: A Black Family Christmas, and it’s such a delight that I hope it will return annually.
Written by Dea Hurston with a “created and devised” credit to Frankie Alicea-Ford, Kevin ‘Blax’ Burroughs, and Milena (Sellers) Phillips, along with Ms. Hurston, this play with music (Ms. Phillips served as composer of the original songs) tells the story of a large family gathering in its middle-class home for the family’s annual Christmas celebration. The characters are all adult family members or significant others, and this particular celebration may turn out to be the last one, at least in its current setting. The home, which has appreciated in value enormously, is too large for Dorothy (Ms. Phillips), the widowed matron, to care for.
Now, of course, the news that the mortgage is paid off and Dorothy wants to spend time with her new beau, Victor (Victor Morris) is mixed for some of the family members, particularly James Jr. (Kory LaQuess Pullam), whose wife, Aadya (Deja Fields) has not been as accepted into the family as James would have liked. Adopted son Javier (Mr. Alicea-Ford) is gay and has a boyfriend named Brian (Durwood Murray), who arrives late. Javier is worried that Brian may have become too busy with his podiatry practice to continue their relationship. And Dorothy’s sister, Lizzie (Portia Gregory) is the life of the party.
As directed by the stellar Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, everyone has a good time, including the audience. The worries and rifts are minor ones, and the surprises are pleasant ones. Family traditions, like eating Italian food for Christmas, provide a look into the dynamic of the kind of gathering you don’t see in a Hallmark Christmas special (do those even exist anymore?). The cast can all sing, and each cast member takes a turn at carrying either one of Ms. Phillips’ original songs, or traditional carols, or favorites such as a gospel-style arrangement of “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” The ensemble work sparkles under John-Mark McGaha’s musical direction.
The creative team has done solid work: set and properties design by Savannah Brittian, lighting design by Daniel Johnson-Carter, costume design by Chanel Mahoney and Joy Yvonne Jones, and sound design by Violet Ceja. The choreographer was Lesa M. Green.
1222 Oceanfront may be a fictional Carlsbad address, but 1222 Oceanfront: A Black Family Christmas provides an excellent way of saying “hasta luego” to a company whose facility begins a major renovation after its December 26 closing.
Performs Wednesdays at 2pm, Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2 and 7:30pm, and Sundays at 2pm. Free parking is available within a short walk from the theatre. The run time is approximately two hours plus intermission. Patrons must present evidence of COVID vaccination and must remain masked while indoors. Additional creative team members are Stage Manager Beonica Bullard, Development Stage Manager Breanne Jones, and Workshop Stage Manager Nicoletta Flores