Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Long Christmas Ride Home is a poignant exploration of family during the holidays

Posted By on Wed, Dec 12, 2018 at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge The Long Christmas Ride Home, Dec. 13-15, 7:30 p.m., CC’s Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave., $5, free for students, coloradocollege.edu. - COURTESY KEVIN LANDIS
  • Courtesy Kevin Landis
  • The Long Christmas Ride Home, Dec. 13-15, 7:30 p.m., CC’s Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave., $5, free for students, coloradocollege.edu.
Most holiday plays, movies and music tend to emphasize the importance of family, whether painting over traditional holiday gatherings with a coat of nostalgia or reminding people that family, especially toxic family, is not an obligation. The Long Christmas Ride Home, a 2003 play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, presents a very realistic — and all the sadder for it — picture of family life that we don’t tend to see in holiday shows on either end of that spectrum, though Vogel insists its setting does not necessarily make it a “Christmas” play. In a car driving to see grandparents on Christmas Eve, a family on the verge of breaking airs its troubles; and it is in that car that they must come to terms with those troubles, too. Far from rehashing the road trip setting found in plays such as Thornton Wilder’s The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden — which Vogel credits as an influence — this play proves unique. Perhaps most notably, it employs the art of bunraku, traditional Japanese puppet theater, in a way few contemporary and even fewer Western shows would dare. The three children in the backseat, all dealing with their parents’ drama differently, are at first represented by puppets. Then, as they grow and age, the puppeteers replace those puppets as actors. Under the expert direction of UCCS’ Kevin Landis, this Colorado College student play should prove a poignant exploration of family during the holidays and otherwise. Perhaps it will even answer the question of how we as people grow from familial trauma, before many head home for the holidays.

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