Wednesday, December 18, 2013

WOBT: "Uh-Oh! Here Comes Christmas"

Twelve independent stories over two acts comprise Uh-Oh! Here Comes Christmas, on offer at the Way Off Broadway Theatre in Prattville. Not a play exactly, but thematically connected to the Christmas Season, six storytellers/actors -- individually, in small groups, or as an ensemble -- take the stage to entertain with a diverse selection of stories and songs.

Written by Robert Fulgham of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten fame, and directed by William Harper (who sometimes joins the other cast members), the stories range from familiar childhood memories to downright silliness to heartwarming reminders of the true meaning of Christmas.

The ensemble -- Elizabeth Bowles, Ed Drozdowski, Stephen Dubberley, Reese Lynch, Kim Mason, Curtia Torbert -- is engaging, and demonstrates worthy stagecraft as they shift from serious to comical selections; and there is significant variety to appeal to most any theatregoer.

For example, Ms. Mason hits the right notes as she shifts from cynical to compassionate observer of an Asian refugee who goes "Trick or Treating" in a Santa mask, but captures the essence of Christmas. The company bemoan yet another "Christmas Pageant" in a humorous assessment of the universal dread that accompanies each annual event. A "Holiday Wedding" between a Jew and a Catholic provides plenty of gentle laughs at the idiosyncrasies of clashing cultures. And "Ponder" suggests a radical reinterpretation of the Nativity story with Ms. Torbert's spot-on ironic tone.

Mr. Dubberley shines in his telling of "The Good Stuff" as he recalls a gift from his young daughter that becomes more and more meaningful over the years; a consummate storyteller, Mr. Dubberley rivets attention through understatement. He is joined by Mr. Drozdowski and Mr. Lynch in a story of the "Salvation Army" family of bell-ringers.

In "The Refrigerator and Confessions", we learn that the best leftovers are memories; and in "The Juggler" the clearest message of Christmas as a time for belief and wonder and a capacity to make things real, encourages us all at the end to join in a chorus of "Silent Night" by candlelight and send us out of the theatre with a full heart.