Happy No Year

comedy · dark horse theater · Ages 13+ · United States of America

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Review by ERIK BLAIR

June 15, 2016 certified reviewer
tagged as: fun · comedic · Different · Good · family-oriented · family fun

What I liked

The Concept: I LOVE “Choose-Your-Own-Ending” theater. It’s one of the reasons I’m such a big fan of the musical Drood, for instance. So I was very excited to see the idea of a muder mystery where the audience gets to choose the killer, especially one that was designed as a comedy about one holiday killing another. Very neat idea and it remained so as I watched it.

The Characters: Halloween not being able to be scary. Valentine’s Day being love-sick. Christmas being vain. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day being twins who were constantly bickering about who was more important. The ideas behind the characters were pretty inspired and generated more than enough ideas to keep the humor going throughout the story. I especially liked Cherami Leigh’s performance as Hally—she sparkled exactly in ways she shouldn’t as Halloween (who wants a sparkly vampire, REALLY? Shut up, Twilight fans!) and Rachel Boller’s turn as the weary, vain, nasty Christmas. In fact, these were the two I most wanted to be the killers because I was enjoying their performances so much. (I won’t spoil who was/was not the killer during the show I watched.)

What I didn't like

Ultimately, the last scene of the script was a serious let-down for me. I won’t say why it is so—but it really damaged what had been a great story up to that point for me.

Also, by having the choice of killer happen SO early in the process, it strangely made the rest of the play feel much longer than I think it was intended to feel. I have no way of knowing how much of the story changes based on the choice of killer without seeing multiple performances—but the choice happened at what felt like about the mid-way point of the story. So then I spent a lot of the rest of the show wondering if scenes were being rearranged because of who the killer was—if we were seeing, essentially, the other “killer reveals” being done as false reveals before the finale. And that made, for me at least, the play seem to take a REALLY long time to get to its actual “killer reveal” at the end. It was a very strange reaction to have to what I was otherwise really enjoying.

My overall impression

I love murder mysteries and comedies. So when a show wants to combine them AND add a “choose your own ending” to boot, you have my attention. So as soon as I heard about this production, I made sure to find time to attend it. Welcome to the party of New Year’s Eve—literally, Eve’s party. She has one every year and invites several holidays to attend. But none of them want to come, for various reasons.

One of them is a drunk (St. Patty’s Day), another is a joker (April Fool’s). One is Thanksgiving, somehow a slave to Christmas. And St. Valentine’s Day apparently is Halloween’s roommate or some such, and they all end up showing up just in time for Eve to end up keeling over dead on the floor.

Are there reasons why any of these people could be the killer? Sure, but the reasons are pretty vague. The purpose of this show isn’t REALLY about solving the murder. It’s really about having fun with the characters and the idea of holidays being personified. And in that, this show excelled—the actors played their parts well and the characterizations were interesting and unusual takes on the holidays they represented.

Where I thought the show was less effective for me was in the actual story itself. Even in a comedy like this, I myself WANTED there to be some real motives behind each of the holidays. I wanted them to each have a good, solid reason to want Eve dead—and some were much weaker, for me, than others. I also felt that the show could have used some tightening across the board to make it sharper and keep it moving—it would have heightened the tension and made it all feel the characters actually cared about there being a dead body in front of them. They felt strangely…unconcerned about it all, somehow.

But I laughed, and in the case of a comedy that’s what you want. And I really enjoyed the concept of the show enormously, so if you want to see a good example of how one can take a genre and try something different with it, this is a show that can give you exactly that.

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