Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Light the Lights, Ol' Moses Cle! (A Wild Holiday Romp)
A fade to black look at the holidays
Cleveland Public Theatre

Review by Mark Horning

Also see Mark's reviews of Plaid Tidings, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

(clockwise from left): Brandon McSwain, Chris Walker,
Dionne Atchison, Molly Andrews-Hinders,
Ryan Edlinger, and Caitlin Lewins

Photo by Steve Wagner
During one of the opening scenes during the Cleveland Public Theatre's production of Light the Lights, Ol' Moses Cle! (A Wild Holiday Romp)), it is strongly suggested that in the spirit of the holidays all audience members consume vast amounts of alcohol to help them over the "rough spots" of the season. Although society frowns upon heavy consumption of adult beverages no matter what the time of year, it is probably not a bad suggestion for those attending the show.

Cleveland Public Theatre has had a long and storied reputation of pushing the envelope when it comes to locally written and produced works, but the current production may have gone a bit farther than most. Light the Lights goes beyond parody and more into the realm of a faux-Christmas work. As the press release tells it, "The individual vignettes range from bawdy to magical to poignant—a theatrical hodgepodge of tradition, community and enlightenment."

Much effort has been put into transforming the Gordon Square Theatre for this production. Seating is cabaret style at eight tables, each with eight chairs, positioned on both sides of a large thrust stage that runs from the formal stage clear back to the bottom of the balcony. At the midway point of the thrust stage is a larger circular stage where much of the action takes place.

The show begins with the playwright Jonathan Blake "driving" recklessly through Cleveland while fielding phone calls. He is one hour away from rehearsal for a "Christmas extravaganza" of which nothing has been put down on paper. On the verge of a complete mental collapse he arrives at the theater and is assailed by his cast who try to talk over each other with ideas for the show, adding to his mental confusion. What follows is a collection of unrelated vignettes that seem to show the darker side of the holidays.

While for the most part the cast is energetic and there are glimpses of real entertainment, some of the audience members at the performance I attended seemed to be confused rather than entertained.

The vignettes include a merry hostess mixing up her 40 proof Christmas punch to line dancing Moseses, a Cleveland version of The Night Before Christmas (complete with Lebron James as Santa and his fellow players as reindeer), a ten minute run-through of every Christmas movie known to man, two over-sexed angels, a native Clevelander meeting her French in-laws for Christmas dinner for the first time, children's letters to Satan, and the finale that has the playwright shot dead by the merry hostess and more. It is hard to tell what the purpose of this conglomeration truly is.

For frequent visitors to Cleveland Public Theatre, this show will be little out of the ordinary as it is clearly directed to their niche audience. Newbies stumbling across the avant-garde threshold may feel out of place in this brave new surrealistic holiday world. Enter at your own risk.

Light the Lights, Ol' Moses Cle! (A Wild Holiday Romp) will be on stage at Cleveland Public Theatre's Gordon Square Theatre through December 18, 2016. Show times are Thursdays through Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online by going to or by phone by calling (216) 631-2727 ext 217.

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