Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Xmas Files"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Joe Coyne

"The Xmas Files"

A Night of Short, Holiday-Themed Comedic Plays

Director Curt Miller


Brian Abascal
Jan Davidson
Helen McElwain
Richard LaFrance
Nathaniel McIntyre
Dennis Paton

The Six Selections

Ho Ho Ho by Josh White
Interview with a Virgin by Jan Davidson
Oh, Henry by Dean O'Donnell
Fruitcakes are Coming to Town by George Sauer
Christmas Breaks by Patrick Gabridge
The Shepherd's Play by Russell Lees

Any Christmas production that begins with the Alvin and the Chipmunks song has a long uphill struggle to regain my interest. I don't think I hate another series of notes (I do not wish to honor it with the term music) as much as that horror. Bell ringing comes to mind, though. While I was thinking of sneaking out, a Salvation Army Santa arrives being the symbol of seasonal charity. With hardly a ho ho ho, he is rebuffed, pummeled and beaten, his gifts and hat stolen. He announces his retirement from the profession. The show was off and if not running then sauntering along.

Centastage has chosen six plays from the twenty five Boston area playwright submissions for their Christmas play series . Think skits and sketches rather than plays or playlets.

Jan Davidson author of "Interview with a Virgin" does a two irreverent installment (birth and death) of the well known Christmas and Easter stories. The type where Mary was in town for some shopping and hoping to see a show, while her son had other plans. It was designed for laughs and they are there: interviewing Inga as an au pair, bitching it up with her sister, Elizabeth. More standup than scene.

"Fruitcakes are Coming to Town" deals with telephone operators and the frustrations they can cause. They name it for us: PSR phone shoppers rage. Extend this to dealing with operators of any type or kind from Sprint marketers to magazine offers, we all can identify. Jan Davidson plays to a tee the abused operator who lives and dies by the absurdities which have come to be known as "company policies". From fruitcake demographics which might be taught at local junior colleges to the fruitcake of the month club, it is clever and you can enjoy the situations.

The best of the batter is "Christmas Breaks" where Marcie (played by Helen McElwain) is planning on getting hitched when her boyfriend's ego overwhelms him and he offers her Davis, a special present from the personal adds. As you figure out what is coming, Ms McElwain buries herself deeply in shallow Marcie's self created dream world of love and Christmas romance utterly surprised by what she has created and structured. When the newly arrived Davis is forced to present her the ring she purchased, you watch with a smile while Ms McElwain shutters with astonishment. Nathaniel McIntyre plays the totally self absorbed boyfriend, who has the presence of mind to tell the truth, the type of statement, "I'll always remember you. Nah, not really"

"The Shepherd's Play" by Russell Lees is in verse and is not terse in either of its definitions. Some accent is used which may be used in Maine or may not be. It is long and tells an uninteresting story of the shepherds on the evening of the Star in the East. Difficult to follow, it fails to meet the requirements of the evening's subtitle: short and comedic

For a light evening of entertainment tied to seasonal themes this should be in the middle of your list. It is played without an intermission

Joe Coyne

"The Xmas Files" (7 - 23 December)
Black Box Theater, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Avenue, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 426-2787

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide