Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
The Xmas Kids Are All Right
Also see Rob's review of Irving Berlin's White Christmas
Sister Susan (Willis Miller) isn't the typical nun we're accustomed to seeing in dramatic classrooms. Instead of slapping fingers with rulers, this goofy teacher wants her kids to win the school's Christmas pageant by having each one develop a skit based on a natural talent. Each child diligently practices, except for Lucy (Katie Becker Colon) who has no particular talent. She takes her plight to her mom (Ampuero in a duel role) and her dad (Miller in a duel role). Dad points out that he comes from a long line of whistlers. Lucy gives whistling a try, and presto, a great talent. But to complicate things, Lucy loses her two front teeth in a playground accident. Thus, what she really wants for Christmas is ...
Through a series of misadventures and Lucy's visit to Santa Claus, things greatly improve for Sister Susan's kids. The school's grumpy janitor delvers a solution to the bully problem, and Lucy learns a way out of her toothless whistling conundrum.
I thought it would be a stretch to see five adults acting as seven-year-olds. As it turns out, that's what makes the play successful. All five actors perfectly capture the charming drama of second-grade life. They do a better job conveying the thrill and terror of childhood than child actors I've seen in Christmas productions.
Rehearsals must have been a riot as each actor went through the process of finding that childhood voice, which includes body language as much as diction and vocal tone. Director Frank Taylor Green has done a wonderful job with the cast. The beauty of the production is that each child's personality is very clearly delineated. Josh Heard is convincing as Joel, a kid who is certain they will all come to a disaster of sickness and broken bones. Ezra Colón is hilarious as the energetic Gus who responds to all events with an exuberant "Cowabunga!" Evening Star Barron is terrific as the awkward ballet star Mena, and Ampuero is excellent as the bully-turned-teammate. Katie Becker Colón delivers a terrifically sweet Lucy as her character struggles through one setback after another only to save the production in the end. If you're going to have adults acting as kids, you might as well have a male actor take on the chore of Sister Susan. Great idea. Miller throws himself into the role with tremendous results.
Christmas plays are always a dicey proposition. They can go so bad, and they are inherently sentimental. If a holiday production isn't going to be sappy, why bother. So the trick is to keep the audience well entertained. This production does so very, very well. And after all the comical childhood slapstick, the cast turns in a brilliant talent production.
All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth, produced by the Duke City Repertory Theatre, at the Cell Theatre at 700 1st. St. NW. Performances run Thursdays through Sundays through December 21. Friday and Saturday performances open at 8:00 pm. Sunday performances are at 2:00 pm. Thursday tickets are $12 for everyone but kids whose tickets are $7. For the remaining performances, adults are $22; seniors, military and students are $14; children up to 17 are $7. For reservations, go to dukecityrep.com or call 797-7082.