"A play about incest, murder, and angst? What could be better at Christmas?"
Although not as ambitious as the average Kenneth Branagh Shakespeare epic, "A Midwinter's Tale" is a delightful, low-key comedy, shot in Black and White, without the outright silliness (or Keanu's bad acting) of "Much Ado About Nothing", or the pretentious overdramatics of the otherwise funny "Peter's Friends"Already depressed over the holiday season, down-and-out actor Joe (Michael Maloney) decides to put on a Christmas presentation of Hamlet in order to save his sister's local church from being shut down. He puts out an ad to recruit actors on a "profit-sharing" basis (and since this is a fund raiser for a church that is already suffering from dismally low attendance, it is reasonable to expect that profits will be nil).
What the ad attracts is a rag-tag group of the most neurotic, eccentric, and quirky thespians who ever attempted to perform the bard - with some of them attempting to put on multiple roles since they are woefully short-handed. The cute but flighty Nina (Julia Sawhala) is cast as Ophelia, while the now openly-gay Terry (John Sessions), who insists on playing Queen Gertrude, hopes that his estranged teenage son will show up to the play so that he can patch up their relationship. Many of the other actors end up playing multiple characters, often switching between characters on stage (one of them plays both Rosencrantz AND Guildenstern). Everything that can go wrong with the play does go wrong, from the pre-production, to the rehearsals, to opening night. The play is predictably an unmitigated disaster, and yet somehow our little band of heroes manages to pull it off with flourish and aplomb.
Drive-in Triple Feature picks for A Midwinter's Tale:
Waiting for Guffman - Ensemble piece from Christopher Guest about another hilariously doomed community play.
Drop Dead Gorgeous - Small town beauty pageant turns murderous. Kirsten Dunst, hot as usual."A Midwinter's Tale" is about overcoming personal hang-ups as much as production debacles, with plenty of laughs and happy endings all around. It's a nice viewing alternative to the usual Christmas pap, and goes well with a fireplace and a snowy December day.