Ben Brantley of The New York Times reviews Paula Vogel’s The Long Christmas Ride Home, which he notes Vogel describes as “a latter-day answer to Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.”
“When theatergoers talk about a play as a religious experience, they usually just mean that it had charismatic performances or some exciting dance numbers. It’s like fashion editors using divine to describe a nice sweater.
But in The Long Christmas Ride Home, which opened last night at the Vineyard Theater, Paula Vogel is not indulging in such hyperbole. She means her play to be a religious experience in the way that a Christmas Mass might be for committed Roman Catholics: an exalted communal ritual of redemption and solace.
But it’s not so much the tale as the telling that counts here. Ms. Vogel has said that with Ride she was trying to create a latter-day answer to Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, with its archetypal small-town lives drawn on a cosmic canvas. And it’s those echoes of eternity, and the ravishingly stylized ways in which they are represented, that turns Ride into a shiver-making experience.
Like Wilder, Ms. Vogel is enamored of the formal, symbol-dominated narratives of traditional Japanese drama. For Ride she has enlisted the techniques of bunraku puppetry and Noh theater, among others, to find the poetry within the clichés of one typically dysfunctional family.”
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