The classic visits of Christmas past have a modern twist in the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!) comedic play, “Los Nutcrackers: A Christmas Carajo.”
The play, which opened on Friday, Dec. 2, has been running for 13 years and follows a gay Latino couple, Carlos and Gabriel, in the midst of a fight on Christmas Eve. Although the men have been together for 15 years, things are tense and rocky between them.
That’s where The Guide steps in. Inspired by “A Christmas Carol,” she is sent down from above to take Carlos and Gabriel through past Christmas celebrations to reflect on their happiest and saddest moments together.
Unlike typical spiritual guides one finds in plays, books, and movies, The Guide in “Los Nutcrackers: A Christmas Carajo” emulates a diva spirit. According to Barbra Herr, who plays The Guide, her character is a cross between three different “Bewitched” characters: Endora, Aunt Clara, and Serena – “wise, ditzy, and cool.” And The Guide runs the stage with sass to help the couple realize the root of their troubles.
“They can either do things to mend [their issues] or keep it the same way it was,” Ms. Herr said.
“Los Nutcrackers: A Christmas Carajo” was written by Charles Rice-Gonzalez, a BAAD! co-founder, in 2001, after the events of Sept. 11. Before the play’s opening last Friday, Mr. Rice-Gonzalez told the audience that the inspiration behind the play also stemmed from wanting people in the LGBTQ community to feel a part of something he feels is relevant after the recent presidential election.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “[But I was] creating something that would bring gay people together for the holidays. Not everyone is able to visit their families for the holiday.”
In keeping up with that feeling of inclusiveness, this year’s casting of The Guide was different. In the past, the role was typically played as a gay man with a feminine side, but for the first time in the play’s run, Ms. Herr has taken it on as a transgender woman.
“Trans people have been shunned by every community,” she said, “so the fact that I’m in this play openly as who I am as an actor, which is what I’ve done all my life, is huge for me.”
For people who have religiously gone to see “Los Nutcrackers: A Christmas Carajo” over the years, Ms. Herr is curious to see how The Guide “will be received this time around.” She hopes that her casting, as well as the overall casting, will show audiences that people in the LGBTQ community can coexist if they are accepting of one another.
When it comes to the show itself, Ms. Herr also hopes it will help boost the Christmas spirit.
“I hope that [people] receive the full message of what [the play is all about] which is love conquers all through adversity,” she said. “Love always wins at the end. It takes a little work to get there, but it does.”