Saturday, March 31, 2012




A Holiday in Heaven, Hope for Humanity, and a Happy Ending for Alexander the Great

Two angels, Allowishes (L), played by Erik Kuzmuk and Hortense the Southern belle, played by Julia Menn (R)greet Mary, played by Grace Bennett when she arrives in heaven.NEW YORK – Events like the annual Academy Awards in Hollywood remind the world that Greeks aren’t just pioneers in arts and entertainment. Theater in American is one of the many fields where they are still making their mark.
Festivals across the country have programs populated with Greek names. Demetria Daniels’ musical “Holiday in Heaven” was one of the featured presentations at the recent “Midwinter Madness Short play Festival,” presented by John Chatterton in Manhattan. Also listed in the program are “The Brink” by Eugenie Carabatsos, “One out of Ten,” originally created by Laertis Vasiliou, translated and directed by Aktina Stathaki, and “The Seven Stages of Grief,” by Dimitri Michalakis.
Daniels calls her play “a romantic fairy tale with a twist and a mission,” and Daniels herself welcomed the audience and introduced the theme cabaret style. The exuberant cast then burst onto the stage singing “Let’s celebrate a holiday in heaven - Eat angel cake and drink sweet wine,” and the audience encountered a play that is both fun and a vehicle for social commentary and spiritual uplift.
It’s the eve of the year 3000 and a great celebration is being planned. Despite the passage of 1000 years, there is still suffering on Earth - apparently our technology didn’t do the trick - but the feast will celebrate the enduring hope for a better world.
Two angels, Allowishes, played by Erik Kuzmuk with a touch of British pomposity, and Hortense the Southern belle, played by Julia Menn, are the musical’s drivers. They are appointed co-organizers of the festival, but there is just a bit of friction -ambition is one of the human emotions that survives the afterlife. But their hearts are in the right place as they both are devoted to raising funds to alleviate homelessness on earth.

Demetria Daniels (standing 3rd from L) with the cast and co-creators of Holiday in Heaven.Greek American actor John Vlachos (far L)played the "bad boyfriend."Myriam Phyro, who later appears as the 17th Century harpist Maria, makes her first appearance as a woman in tatters singing a song about the life of the homeless: “They live like shadows, discarded souls…but something will happen to change the day.”
That still appears long term, however. In the meantime, our angels hatch the idea of a harp-playing contest to anchor their fundraising efforts, but they need to find a judge. Even heaven, or its lower levels perhaps, is still subject to egoism and favoritism.
Apparently heaven also relies on computers – either they’ve become more spiritual in 1000 years – the expected quantum computers perhaps, or heaven always had its material elements (what else would ego cling to?)
Allowishes and Hortense find Mary, who cares for homeless people in New York, but as saintly as she is, she is subject to anger as her worthless boyfriend has forgotten her birthday and her apartment is trashed by robbers.
Mary is a musician however, and she can lose herself and her troubles in her music. And there are good people on earth. Mary’s piano accompanist has fallen in love with her, foreshadowing a happy ending, but matters in heaven are still up in the air. The boyfriend (played by Greek-American John Vlachos) scoffs at the golden invitation she received for the Holiday.
Earthly tragedy is a gain for heaven as Mary is struck by a car as she was rushing across the street one day. When she awakens in heaven the angels assure her that she is not dead and Allowishes immediately whisks her away with a waltz. The next one on her dance card is none other than Alexander the Great.
Questions abound for Mary and the audience, what does one say upon being introduced history’s greatest warrior? Mary maintains her composures, announcing “I speak a little Greek.” She pauses, smiles, and intones “Agape,” which was the magic word because Alexander asks her if she would like to see the garden. He has also arranged a weekend of wonderful concerts, reminding all that the man great fighting and organizational skills.
Clearly the Macedonian king (played by Noah Pielow) made it to heaven on extra credit for his vision of harmony among the nations of the world – after defeating them all in battle, that is. There are hints that the play unfolds in the Roman Catholic corner of heaven: the conqueror must have endured some Purgatory Time and now appears as quite the caring gentleman.
As impatient as ever, he presents his sing-song marriage proposal to a breathless Mary. Allowishes and Hortense are ecstatic, only to learn that higher authorities have decreed that Mary will survive the accident and must return to earth. Mary is distraught, but Alex declares that he will fix things. He finds Marie, and she and Mary agree to switch places.
“Are there rules against that?” Allowishes asks. “Not that I’ve heard,” Hortense replies. “Well just don’t tell anyone,” – he may have been part Greek – and the wonderful New Millenium wedding celebration begins.

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