Theatre Mirror Reviews -"Ant'ny Claus Carol"

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entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"Ant'ny Claus:"
A Dysfunctional Family Christmas

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Theatre Works holiday show this year is the world premiere of an original play, "Ant'ny Claus:A Dysfunctional Family Christmas". It's the story of Ant'ny, Santa's not-so-little little brother, who spends this Christmas Eve like every other-waiting for Code Red Suit-which means he gets to fill in for Santa. While they wait to see if the hotline from the North Pole will ring, Ant'ny and his family-wife Carmella, mother-in-law Carmella Senior, son Sonny, daughter Holly, plus Bruno the Elf and a talking reindeer named Bennie, Blue Balls-work through the night in typical North Providence style. Spend another wacky Christmas Eve with Ant'ny and his family as Ant'ny sits and waits for that phone to ring. The show was written by Frank O'Donnell, based on a character he's played at Christmas gatherings for the past 15 years. Frank and Mark Anderson co-direct this version of the show and has 16 performers playing multiple roles. The enthusiastic audience leapt to their feet at the conclusion of the show and roared with laughter during it.

Frank creates many comic situations in his script by taking Rhode Island-isms and mixes them with this holiday tale. It is an Italian-American spin on the Christmas season and is a lot like Saturday Night Live. He and Mark bring out the best in their cast. Mark built the gorgeous set for the show while the costumes are by Sharon Charette. Geoff White plays Ant'ny who makes numerous wisecracks and hilarious one-liners while waiting impatiently by the phone to jump into Santa's well worn boots. Geoff captures the true essence of a curmudgeonly character who yearns to become Santa one day. He delivers a tour-de-force performance in this role. Some of his funny momentd include doing a slow burn on the phone ringing hot line, insulting his mother in law constantly, yelling at the Christmas carolers at his door. (The smallest one played by second grader, Seth Bousquet gives Ant'ny his comeuppance several times in his debut performance onstage.) What happens next has to be seen to be believed especially when big brother shows up for a quick visit as well as a local newscaster cameo in the show.

Bethany Lynn Giammarco is Carmella, his long suffering wife. She puts a clever spin on this role, having appeared with Ocean State Follies. Carmella swears up a storm on her first entrance saying friggin this and friggin that and is hilarious during a TV interview, smiling into the camera. One of her funniest scenes is when she tries to cheer up Ant'ny by singing Ant'ny Baby to the tune of Santa Baby while trying to seduce him. Connie Anderson is a hoot as the bossy, know-it-all mother-in-law, Carmella Senior. She is reminiscent of Sophia Petrillo from "Golden Girls". Carmella, Sr. has made the 9 fishes for Christmas Eve and insists everyone who comes to the house has to eat before they leave. She makes a deal with Santa to be quiet for two minutes if he brings her two cases of Jack Daniels. Her character can hear every insult Ant'ny makes.Other comic characters include John Morris as Bruno, head elf, who Santa has dismissed because he grew over the five foot height limit. He delivers a comic monologue to the audience. Lynn Nadrowski as Bennie, Blue Balls is Rudolph's younger brother. She is hilarious as she makes the news reports on how the reindeers at the North Pole are feeling and also calling Rudolph, the stop light. She has blue balls attached to her antlers and many comic bits abound from it. Padriag Mahoney as their son, Sonny who wants to be called Ajar for Anthony Junior. He has many comic moments in the show,tweeting and texting on Facebook, arguing constantly with his sister, Holly and refusing to eat fish on Christmas Eve. Phoebe Perelman plays the petulant Holly who walks in on her parents romantic interlude attempt and exclaims "You're way too old to be making out!" She has some snappy comebacks after being picked on by her brother. Fred Reinhardt as Santino, the real Santa Claus. He has some comic moments in the show and his entrance is a comic gem. To give away any more of the plot would ruin it for the audience. So for a marvelous alternative to "A Christmas Carol" (there are some clever tie ins to the Dickens show), be sure to catch Ant'ny Claus to get into the spirit of Christmas. Frank O'Donnell has written a terrific comic script that will hopefully be performed far and wide to entertain audiences.

"Ant'ny Claus: A Dysfunctional Family Christmas" (2 - 11 December)
@ 142 Clinton Street, WOONSOCKET RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide