Sunday, December 13, 2015

WOBT: "Merry Christmas, Dear Grandpa"

Merry Christmas, Dear Grandpa is a short three-act comedy by Michal Jacot that comes in at a running time of an hour and a half including a 15-minute intermission at the Way Off Broadway Theatre in Prattville.

Director Blair Dyson makes his community theatre directing debut as he guides his six-member cast of neophyte and veteran actors in often predictable and sometimes hilarious moments on stage.

The naturalistic finished living room of a home in suburban Oregon designed by the director along with Marc Alewine and Jessica Brumett, reflects the personality of its new owner Amber Hartley [Annabelle DuBose] an obsessive perfectionist with a place for everything and everything in its place. Amber wants to host "the perfect Christmas celebration" with her family, plans that go awry from the start, only to be pleasantly resolved by the end. -- It is Christmastime, so the spirit of the season is bound to make an impact on even the most recalcitrant members of the clan. That they end up with an unexpected perfect day is, in the words of one of them, "a Christmas miracle".

Amber's intentions are disrupted by her sloppy sister Frankie [Cameron Wasner], her hold-over flower-children parents Al [Mike Proper] and Marie [Casey Wasner], and her sarcastic older brother Keith [James Scott] who brings curmudgeonly Grandpa [West Marcus] from the retirement home.
En route to its inevitable positive conclusion, there are sibling rivalries, parental guilt-trips, and outrageous demands from Grandpa who, at times much like Ebenezer Scrooge, has a soft side.

Jadot's modest script, with its predictable plot and fairly one-dimensional characters, does contain a few surprises and frequent enough situations that afford the acting company some shining moments.

The family have learned to tolerate Grandpa's tirades and eccentric behavior, and Mr. Marcus can be counted on to play Grandpa with just enough aplomb that his outbursts and infantile tricks are rendered palatable. -- Mr. Proper and Ms. Casey Wasner are a fine parental double-act who play well off one another. -- The sibling rivalries and goading between Ms. DuBose and Ms. Cameron Wasner [an 11th-hour replacement in the role of Frankie] are crafted convincingly. -- And Mr. Scott, making his theatrical debut as the much maligned older brother, gives an animated and cunningly sardonic performance that is a stand-out in this production.

A light-hearted Christmas show, Merry Christmas, Dear Grandpa leaves audiences with smiles on their faces and hearts filled with good will.