Regional Reviews: Albuquerque
You Can't Get a Decent Margarita at the North Pole
Rita wants to save Santa the burden of a claim partly because Rudolph has no real claim and partly because she's in love with Santa and wants to protect him. She also sees it as a way to keep Santa at the office. She's the main reason Santa can't get home on time.
Meanwhile, Santa is overwhelmed with Christmas preparations, and a neglected Mrs. Claus is just about ready to throw her always-at-the-office husband under the bus. All the while, the Tooth Fairywho is an East Coast mobster by dayis batting his substantial lashes at Mrs. Claus, trying to line up a regular nooner.
Mrs. Claus (Laurie Thomas) just wants a little attention from her distracted husband. She adores him, and he can't even see her. In Mrs. Claus' hurt and frustration, she's vulnerable to anyone who might sense her distress and take advantage. Thomas nicely brings a 1940s saucy leading lady style to the character.
Santa (Bruce Holmes), of course, hasn't a clue. He's a well-meaning doofus, easily manipulated by Rita. Holmes nails Santa's voice, big and broad with hollow authority. His long-pining elf Rita (Georgette Reeves) only wants to be with Santa. She wants to fix up the messes in Santa's shop, i.e. Rudolph, and see to all his needs, while trying to keep him in the shop and by her side for as many hours as possible.
The Tooth Fairy (Gregory Wagrowski) keeps pressure on Mrs. Claus, mostly by plying her with alcohol. Wagrowski does an inspired turn on Paulie Walnuts of the The Sopranos, played by Tony Sirico. Wagrowski even looks like Sirico. The Tooth Fairy is part of the Shakespeare-ish twist at the end, and he handles it wonderfully.
In a bizarre scheme by Rudolph, the whole bunch heads off to Mexico for a week, half not knowing the other half is going to show up. Of course, everybody crashes into everyone else and all pretenses break down. As the whole mess gets straightened out in a sit-com calamity, it's very funny.
Rudolph (Jody O'Neil) is the twisted center of the romp. O'Neil balances a number of roles: scapegoat, jester, and the humorous conscious of the story. Most of all, O'Neil is always funny, from open to close.
Playwright Matt Hanf borrows heavily from Shakespeare's comedies. He even has Rudolph quoting the Bard in goofy soliloquies. Wise choice. If you're going to steal, steal from the greats. You Can't Get a Decent Margarita at the North Pole is showing as a world premiere at the Fusion. This Elk Grove, California, playwright has placed twice in Fusion's The Seven one-act play competition. Hanf scores well with this debut. While he's not blazing new ground, he does turn in a funny play.
Direction by Jacqueline Reid keeps things moving at a tight clip. The pacing is part of what makes the script funny. There is a whole world of comedy here that doesn't come directly from the script. I would guess the source of those laughs is Reid. She has a good bead on this script, finding laughs hiding in the corners.
The costumes by Jaime Pardo are ridiculous, which is the heart of their charm. The mobster Tooth Fairy is a particularly hilarious vision, from his fluttering wings to his tough-guy tutu. Rudolph's get-up is a disaster, which perfectly fits his grumbling personality. The staging (Maria Lee Schmidt) and lighting (Richard Hogle) are simple, clean and effective. This is a fun play; catch it if you want a good laugh.
You Can't Get a Decent Margarita at the North Pole by Matt Hanf and directed by Jacqueline Reid is a Fusion Theatre Company production. It runs at The Cell, 700 1st Street NW, through December 24. Performances run Thursday and Friday at 8:00 pm, Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00 pm, Sunday at 6 pm. On the closing-day show, December 24, there will be a matinee show only, at 2:00 pm. General admission for adults is $30. For seniors and students, $25. For reservations, call 766-9412, or purchase at the Theatre's website: www.fusionabq.org.