AISLE SAY Twin Cities


Authors: Thomas Anstey Guthrie, Leonard Kip,
Jerome K. Jerome, and John Kendrick Bangs
Directed and adapted by Steve Schroer
Staring: Nicole Brending, Justin Droegemueller,
Ryan Grimes, Leigha Horton, Patrick McIntyre,
Randy Schmeling, and Corissa White
Playwrights' Center
Minneapolis, MN (612) 332-7481

Reviewed by Ellen Dworsky, Roxanne Sadovsky
and David Erickson

I don't know why Rox is so fascinated with Christmas. ("We're Jews, Rox," I keep telling her.) Last year she dragged me off to see A Christmas Carol--which I refused to see again this year. Instead, I agreed to "Scary Christmas". (What the hell was I thinking?) Scary indeed, since the Playwright's Center is in "the "hood" as Rox calls it. Ok, so the Seward area of Minneapolis is hardly the hood, in fact is there even a "hood" in Minneapolis?

Rox: You're getting off-track even faster than I usually do.

Elle: I think these years of exposure to you have had an effect on me. Listen, since David saw Scary X-mas with us, and he is a goy, let's have him do the plot summary.

Rox: Elle, Don't you think David is just so cute?

Elle: Now there's the Rox I know and love. But, Stop her, David! Stop her! Give the people the plot summary.

David: That's right, make the new goy do the work while you "kibitz" and "kvetch," or whatever you two Jew do. Christmas comes but once a year, yet Chanukah seems to drag on forever. Anyway, the fine people at Hardcover Theatre--they specialize in adapting books for the stage--have come up with a nice little treat for those of you already growing dizzy from the heavy doses of holiday sap oozing from your TV sets, and spewing from every well endowed, funded, granted, feted, artistically-visioned yet taste-impaired stage in the cities. It's called "Scary Christmas", and it's scary in that fun way that the Addams Family is scary. Not scary "Oh my god, the walls are dripping blood!", more like, "Hee, hee, hee, look mommy--it's the undead!". With sets and costumes reminiscent of Edward Gorey's "Amphigory" books, and his creepy animated intro to public television's Mystery! series, the scene is ripe for a little bizarre fun in the spirit (dead or alive) of Christmas. We are presented with a buffet of four repasts, all set in the Victorian era, where spooky things like marrying your cousin and wearing overly restrictive clothing were invented. The stories run a narrow gamut, from ghost stories to, well, variations on ghost stories. The players are all surprisingly crisp and professionally turned out, and one gets the feeling that they've been through this material in other venues. The English accents are believable, the broadly played characters are entertaining, and there are enough silly and clever comedic touches to keep even the most jaded theatergoer from fading into yule-tide yawning.

Elle: What the hell is he talking about, this yule-tide yawning?

Rox: Elle, Don't you think David is just so cute?

Elle: What, are you on autopilot?

Now that the ladies are finished with the banter segment of our programming... The first story, "The Curse of the Red Chamber", tells the tale of an opportunistic would-be lothario, who stumbles onto a scam to marry into wealth and ends up being held accountable by a weird little demon with a very large pencil (you heard it here first).

The second, "The Hauntings at Grantley Grange", combines the longings for consanguineous love (also know as hillbilly syndrome, or marrying your cousin), with ghosts and an inadvertent jewel heist involving filberts (you know, "hazelnuts")

The third horrific tale, "The Broken-Hearted Ghost", involves a sprightly young girl and her first encounter with love, via the ghost of a man who can't stop moaning and groaning over getting dumped. (Eeeee-m-i-lllll-y, why didn't you waaaaait for me?") And he never does, though she gets him to turn down the volume a little.

The final damp adventure, "The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall", involves a wet phantom who won't stop sopping up an old mansion, leading each subsequent owner to explore new strategies in waterproofing and rainwear.

Not an evening for the faint of heart, or those hoping for another chorus of "Silent Night". The night is never truly silent. Boo.

Elle: I'm sorry, did he just end this review with "boo?"

Rox: Elle, Don't you think David is just so cute?

Elle: I give up.

Rox: Elle, you can't end the review like that. It's worse than "Boo."

Elle: Fine. Go see the play, and bring the kiddies. I'll end with saying, Happy Chanukah to all, and to all a good night.

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