Black Nativity: Now's the Time

Ann Marsden

Keeping longstanding holiday shows fresh is a challenge for several area theaters. Through the years, Penumbra's Black Nativity has gone through several versions—the best of them focused closely on the themes of family and the spirit and pure joy that come with Christmas. The 2010 edition, titled Now's the Time, does all that in a tight, 70-minute performance that showcases stunning vocals, moving dances, and a touching story about rediscovering your "song." As in previous years, the story centers on a family celebrating Christmas. The matriarch has recently lost her husband and is facing the first holiday in many years without him. The rest of the family works to cheer her up, but it takes some divine influence—in the form of a trio of angels and a spirit called the Wanderer—to return the joy. The story is largely told through more than two dozen traditional holiday and gospel songs. Director Dominic Taylor smoothly moves the action from piece to piece, crafting (along with creators T. Mychael Rambo and Lou Bellamy) a cohesive journey for our characters. The performers, led by Greta Oglesby as Grandma Walker and Dennis W. Spears as the Wanderer, are top notch. With little dialogue, the story gets told through their actions and reactions, whether it is the interplay between the young siblings or between the family and the Wanderer, who appears at their door as a homeless man alone in the cold. Dancers Alanna Morris and Marciano Silva Dos Santos add an extra layer to the story of Jesus' birth. Combined with some stunning arrangements and vocal work, these are among the show's most compelling moments. $10-38. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays; 270 N. Kent St., St. Paul; 651.224.3180. Through December 26

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