nytheatre.com review by Maggie Cino
December 4, 2010
Lonesome Winter’s haunting melancholy is wrapped in a lavish garland of seasonal tinsel. The eponymous Winter Lipschitz is a gentle, awkward, and yes, lonely woman working for the Shop at Home channel. Her only friend is her worst enemy, a mean-spirited cat named Sparkles. Fed up with it all, Winter decides to kill herself—but she’s no more successful at that then she’s been at anything else. From that unlikely point, the play takes off on a madcap romp as Winter reluctantly learns to rejoin humanity.
The all-star cast is a joy, and Joshua Conkel and Megan Hill have written themselves pitch-perfect parts. Hill, as Winter, is the star of this holiday night. Winter’s yearning to join the human race has a bouncy edge that never becomes pathetic, and an emotional connectedness that never becomes caricature. Sparkles the Cat is the magical realist brainchild of playwrights who have an obvious and tremendous love of cats. Conkel’s interpretation mixes the bitterness with a gleeful edge, and when Sparkles’s grand musical theater downfall arrives, the biggest tragedy is having this charming actor leave the stage. Nicole Beerman, as the spirit of Christmas in the body of a life coach, plays her role of plastic cheeriness with total conviction. Kirsten Hopkins as Winter’s sister Avery and Nick Lewis as her new friend Bobby contribute a human ballast to the outsized characterizations of the others.
Meg Sturiano directs with a sure and steady hand. The production moves swiftly along, one scene sliding into the next. Her sound design includes every song ever overhead at a shopping mall—including all the ones you hate to admit you like. She also uses food to great advantage during the play; whether it’s Winter eating yogurt or Sparkles slurping Fancy Feast, food is as visible, audible, and theatrical a presence during the piece as it is during all our lives at this time of year.
Jason Simms’s hyper-real set brings you straight to a living room in middle America. Julie Jesneck and Megan Hill’s costumes complement the play’s hyper-surreal-ism, and Grant Wilcoxen’s lights send you between Winter’s lonely living room and her dreams of hosting the Shop at Home show with ease.
The show’s penultimate moment embraces the darkness that is the undercurrent of this whole production, but the final moment bounces back and sends you out in the street with the same feeling you have after a small holiday party with your close friends. Because in the end, Lonesome Winter is a feel-good holiday play for people who hate to admit they like that kind of thing.