World premiere of student's "Nathan’s Secret Girlfriend: A Christmas Play" Dec. 2-10

Vera Varlamov, Joshua Marx and Michael Thomas Walker

Break out the eggnog and brace yourself for some holly-jolly family time with the Millers: Rutgers student Brendon Votipka’s dark holiday comedy, Nathan’s Secret Girlfriend: A Christmas Play, runs Friday, December 2, through Saturday, December 10, 2011, at the Philip J. Levin Theater. Jamie Richards directs.

The holidays are less-than-merry as the Millers gather for the first Christmas in the wake of a major family tragedy. Meanwhile, they must confront Nathan and his shocking new girlfriend and figure out how to truly communicate with one another.

The winter holidays tend to be “fraught with peril and tension and terror,” Richards says. “Flare-ups seem monumental because of how happy that time is supposed to be.” Often, this cocktail of fear and loathing at the Miller house is laced with the absurd as they long for the idyllic Christmas they believe they experienced in their childhood.

Attempting to navigate thorny relationships and to “force intimacy” with one another make for a tense (and hilarious) situation, Richards says, because “everyone is walking on eggshells. Inevitably, something explodes.”

The holidays, a period that Richards describes as a “time of extreme togetherness,” are fertile ground for Votipka’s potent mix of comedy and drama.

“How can they get past all of this and reach out?” Richards says. “It’s as if, ‘We’re alone together now’ ”—and there’s nowhere to run.

Nathan’s Secret Girlfriend: A Christmas Play runs from Friday, December 2 through Saturday, December 10, 2011, at the Philip J. Levin Theater. Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $25 for the general public, $20 for Rutgers alumni and employees and seniors and only $15 for students with valid ID. The Philip J. Levin Theater is in the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center, 85 George Street (between Route 18 and Ryders Lane), on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. For more information about any Mason Gross event, and to learn more about the 2011-2012 Rutgers Theater Company season, visit or call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 732-932-7511.

Media Inquiries: Laurie Granieri, 848-932-5239.