My family always bought a live tree. It was trimmed with wood ornaments from far away lands, candy canes, tinsel, and was topped with a wax angel in a burgundy dress. But the finishing touch was the angels hair we splintered our fingers stretching across the outermost branches. It evoked a soft, radiant glow from the tiny lights within that looked, to me, like tiny halos – transforming our tree into the essence of the season. I would camp out in the living room in the nights leading up to Christmas Eve and my heart would glow with all of those lustrous disks of light. I cradled this heartglowing spirit around the holidays until I was in my late twenties. Then life became that Bitch that broke that spirit. Christmas, like life, nurtures a heartbreaking underbelly that Theater Alliance’s The Night Before Christmas exploits and I, for one, found it very comforting.
Christmas time is not for adults. And is even less so for the unfortunate. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. There is no magic, no guaranteed happy endings and many childhood and adult dreams alike are squashed just like the innocent faith that believed in Santa Claus. Growing old ain’t for sissies.
A great performance will leave an audience ignorant of any one individuals mark. A provocative production will leave the onlookers moved by the story as a seamless experience. And The Night Before Christmas is one well-oiled machine. Hannah Todd’s direction is as satisfying as my Mothers Christmas cookies. And my Mamma can bake! Nathaniel Mendez (Gary) is as entertaining and as enjoyable as singing “Jingle Bells.” Dylan Morrison Myers (Simon) gives an annoying cynic depth and layers to be loved. Jared Mason Murray (Elf) is infectiously disturbing. And Raven Boniwell (Cherry) shamelessly flaunts all of her talent. The costumes, by Erin Nugent, gave a fitting preface. And Brooke Robbins has the stage set pessimistically sparse and dark – much like the state of many an adults emotions around ‘The Giving Season.’
Writing this review was like trying to figure out how to wrap a gift in cellophane. Hopefully I’ve managed to reveal enough to prompt a place for The Night Before Christmas on your ‘wish list’ while concealing enough not to spoil how gratifying it is. The name on the tag is “YOU” because it’s a gift worth discovering yourself. Especially if you feel you’ve outgrown, or worse yet, never had a place in Santa’s jurisdiction.
Running Time: 55 minutes with no intermission.
The Night Before Christmas plays through December 29, 2012, at H Street Playhouse – 1365 H Street, NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.