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— Ryan Beltram, EDN

We’re getting closer and closer to Christmas, and as a result, a number of new plays are debuting before the end of the year. At the professional playhouses, two new plays debut while two more are still running. At the high school level, two plays from the work of legendary playwrights begin.

Professional Theater

Family Reunion, written by local playwright and VLT member Steve Mandell

Family Reunion debuts on Friday, Dec. 3, and will run through Dec. 11. All shows will be at 8 pm, except both Sunday shows which will be at 2 pm.

The Very Little Theater has an old favorite returning to the stage. Family Reunion, written by local playwright and VLT member Steve Mandell, tells the story of a middle-aged man being visited by his mother, father, brother, ex-wife and ex-mistress. There’s just one problem: they’re all dead.

These characters, along with a mystery woman, visit him for a family reunion of sorts. How accurate are his memories of the people he used to love? What’s real and what isn’t? What matters? Who matters? Or does any of it matter at all?

SantaLand Diaries will run at the Lord Leebrick theater, Dec. 2-4, 8-11 and 15-18. Sunday shows will be at 2 pm, while all other shows will start at 8 pm.

What do you do after working as a Christmas elf in “SantaLand” at Macy’s department store? You write about it. Author David Sedaris recounted this time in his life with a humorous essay entitled SantaLand Diaries.  In the early ’90s, Sedaris debuted as Crumpet the Elf on NPR’s Morning Edition. The essay garnered cult status and eventually evolved into a play. Robert Vrtis directs the cast, including Colin Lawrence as Crumpet the Elf and Jonathan Knight and Caitlin Wikenbach as fellow SantaLand elves.

On-Going Productions

The Actors Cabaret of Eugene resumes its run of A Christmas Carol on Dec. 2. Weekday shows are at 7:30 pm, while Sunday shows start at 2 pm. Performances run through Dec. 17.

Trial By Fire Theatreworks continues its production of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Tony Award-winning play’s premiere on Broadway, Trial By Fire presents the first part of Tony Kushner’s gay fantasia on national themes. The play continues through Dec. 10. at The Janie Heart Theatre Reality Kitchen at 245 Van Buren.  Contact the box office for times: Box Office: (541) 683-1429.

Student Theater

It’s finals week for high-schoolers, but that won’t stop some schools from putting on productions at the end of the week.

One of Shakespeare’s most popular stories, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will open at Churchill High School on Thursday, Dec. 1, and resumes on Saturday for a weekend of shows. Each performance begins at 7 pm.

The play features three interwoven plots, all connected by the wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens and the Amazon queen, Hippolyta. Set in the woods in the realm of Fairyland, the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors plays out. The play deals with themes such as love, individual identity and feminism.

Over at Springfield High School, students will be performing in Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park, which runs Dec. 1-3 at 7:30 pm.

The play focuses on newlyweds Corie and Paul Bratter, and their adventures living in a tiny sixth-floor apartment in Greenwich Village. Paul is a hard-working attorney, just starting his practice, while spontaneous bride Corie is focused on creating a romantic environment in an apartment with one room, no heat, a hole in the skylight and oddball neighbors.

There are a number of options for local theater fans this week. If you’re in the mood for something fun or something serious, there should be a play that will interest you.

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