What do Matt Damon, psychics and a Chinese dwarf hamster have in common? They're all characters in Suburban Holidays, a festival of new plays at Reading's own Quannapowitt Playhouse (QP), which has got to be one of the most original holiday entertainment options this side of Boston, featuring Kerry Anne Kilkelly of North Andover.
Earlier this year, dozens of New England playwrights submitted original one-act plays, which had to have a holiday theme and to take place "in a town very much like Reading, Massachusetts." Seven were chosen to be produced this December in QP's black box theater on Hopkins Street, and the result is an eclectic mix of theater that ranges from touching to hilarious.
"We are very proud to be able to showcase these new works in full productions," said Wakefield resident Patrick Cleary, a playwright himself who is one of three individuals directing the plays, along with Wakefield's Donna Corbett and Peter Cosmas Sofronas of Salem. "The three directors are committed to presenting them as the playwrights envisioned them, and to give audiences a unique holiday theater experience."
The seven plays have been grouped into two separate evenings (or afternoons) of theater. "Track A" will be performed on Thursday, December 6, Saturday, December 8 and Friday, December 14 at 8 p.m., and on Sunday, December 16 at 2 p.m. "Track B" will be performed on Friday, December 7, Thursday, December 13 and Saturday, December 15 at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, December 9.
Track A includes Thanksgiving When You're Dating Matt Damon by Lisa Burdick, about what happens to a holiday gathering when a family member shows up in the social pages of the Boston Globe, White Kwanzaa by Daniel Glenn, about four white women who read a book like The Help and decide to celebrate Kwanzaa, The Bench by Julie Perkins, about a Christmas Eve encounter between two strangers, and Better Watch Out by Patrick Cleary, about you-know-who, who's keeping a list.
Track B includes 12 Days by John Kuntz, where holiday gift-giving runs up against the limited square footage of a true love's one-bedroom apartment, Suburban Holidays by Patrick Cleary, where a Christmas Eve phone call takes on new meaning in a family where "all the women are psychics," and Sunflower's Last Thanksgiving by Sarah Morrison, where a young girl learns important life lessons from her loved ones, including her hamster.
North Andover resident Kerry Anne Kilkelly is featured in both Track A and Track B as Virginia in Better Watch Out, who has a thing against Santa and as Mom in Suburban Holidays, who is trying to hold on to her marriage on Christmas Eve. Kerry Anne is very excited to get the opportunity to play two very different roles in this great festival of plays.
The cast of Suburban Holidays also includes Lisa Atkinson, Steven Atwater, Mei Lu Barnum, Avery Bargar, Barbara Bourgeois, Mike Cherone, Craig Ciampa, Jaime Freedman, Nancy Curran Willis, Anne Damon, Barbara Dempsey-West, Kay Gross, Sharon Mason, John Pease, Sigrid Perkins, Jen Shea, Danielle Vella, Tom Vittorioso, Kathy Wackowski, Ron Wackowski and David Wood.
Tickets for any one performance date are $18 general admission. But audience members can see both tracks over two dates - all seven plays - for just $30.
"I hope that audiences will choose to see both tracks," said Cleary. "These shows are all terrific, and will certainly bring a new perspective on the holiday season."
For more information and tickets, go to www.qptheater.com, or call 781-942-2212.