Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
The Night Before Christmas
Here's how it goes down: two men with a London warehouse full of "mostly" legal merchandise discover that a fellow in an elf suit has broken in. They tie the supposed elf to a chair while they try to get to the bottom of his story. Neither of the men actually believe that their uninvited visitor is a Christmas elf. Well, Gary believed it enough to call Simon, and Simon believes it just enough to not immediately call the police. But the whole sweet, innocent, I-just-fell-off-the-sleigh story has a few holes in it.
Like, how do they have enough sleighs to visit all the houses? And how do they get in when there's no chimney? The elf has answers for all of this (sometimes they have to jimmy doors), but the answers don't always satisfy, and the guys eventually start blaming the elf for everything they don't like about Christmas. (At one point, they suggest torturing the elf by force-feeding him fruitcake.)
The guys are eventually joined by Cherry, a prostitute who has been promised Power Ranger toys by Gary in exchange for services rendered. Cherry, too, has complaints about Christmasmost of them rendering the show unsuitable for childrenand things don't look so good for the elf.
It's a quick and funny comedy which, like many of the best comedies, ultimately has moments of real heart. The Furious production, helmed by Robert Pescovitz, hits all the right notes (starting when Simon, who refuses to be fooled by the elf, finds himself bouncing to infectious holiday music). One could analyze this play and identify exactly where it goes right, but subjecting it to close scrutiny would ultimately undermine its charm. The Night Before Christmas is that rare and wonderful creature: a holiday show that's genuinely funny ... and genuine.
The Night Before Christmas runs at the Pasadena Playhouse Carrie Hamilton Theatre through December 20, 2008. For tickets and information, see www.furioustheatre.org.
The Nightmare Before Christmas by Anthony Neilson; Directed by Robert Pescovitz. Produced by Furious Theatre Company. Stage Manager Liz Eldridge; Set and Lighting Design Christie Wright; Sound Design Cricket S. Myers; Costume Design Christy M. Hauptman; Dialect Coach Sara Hennessy; Graphic Design Eric Pargac; Marketing and Publicity David Elzer/DEMAND PR.