Review: ‘Uncle Nick’ at Wolf Pack Theatre Company

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Uncle Nick brings a merry good time to the Holidays

Who hasn’t heard the line: “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house…” during the Christmas Holiday Season? That line, from the 1823 Clement Moore Clark poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” served as the metaphorical spine of Wolf Pack Theatre Company’s World Premiere of Uncle Nick, written and directed by Wolf Pack founder William Dean Leary, at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church. Leary’s strong direction made the show a funny-bone-breaking, absurdist, merry good time.

Playwright and Director William Dean Leary.
Playwright and Director William Dean Leary.

With its third world premiere this year, kinK and Memories & Legends being the other two, Wolf Pack is most likely the most prolific new theater company in the DC Metro Area. Uncle Nick is a quirky show about the quirky family Foster, a “study in chaos and confusion” as the patriarch, Ted aka Theodore Alan Foster put it. You definitely won’t find this family in a painting by Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade.

Uncle Nick’s strengths are in its comedy and characters. The show is Seinfeldian in that it is “about nothing”—don’t look for a plot here. The Fosters consisted of the aforementioned Ted (Jamie Brill), his wife Joan (Lauren Patton), and their three kids, Becki (the excellent Kaitlyn Elizabeth Gebhardt), Dustin (played with personality by Aaron Williams) and Laura (the fabulous Destiny Staton).

The shenanigans started approximately 6 PM on Christmas Eve, with Becki, Dustin, and Laura bickering over a hamster on the loose, named Herbie. Much name calling and confusion ensued. Through it all the moto for Ted seemed to be “A husband’s work is never done,” as he tried to bring order to his unruly kids and field a request from his wife, Joan, to run to Macy’s and “pick up a sweater.”

Brill broke the fourth wall several times to not only give a running commentary to the proceedings, but to recite lines from “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” After the kids bought “Helen the Hamster” (continually called a rat, by Joan), and “Anastasia the Goldfish” from the pet store, Ted’s Aunt Clara showed up. Aunt Clara’s witticisms made no sense but brought many laughs.

In the second act, the titular Uncle Nick (the wonderful Lee Rowe) showed up. It became apparent that Uncle Nick thought he was really Santa Claus. “I make millions of stops on our trip,” he declared. From there began an absurd, penetrating discussion on the advantages of eating either venison or bear meat, which left Aunt Clara to declare “Sometimes this family makes no sense whatsoever.”

Cast members of 'Uncle Nick.' Photo courtesy of Wolf Pack Theatre Company.
Cast members of ‘Uncle Nick.’ Photo courtesy of Wolf Pack Theatre Company.

Also thrown into the mix were the young couple Pete and Patti. Through it all, Patti looked most uncertain about making things official with Pete and joining this “family and figuring out who ought to be committed.”

Leary’s wonderful, yuletide-flavored set was a smorgasbord of Christmas paraphernalia, most notably with stocking stuffers with family member’s names embroidered on them, Santa and reindeer figurines, and glitter.

Paul Davis  impressed as the young, nerdy Pete. Rebekah Rowe gave Patti icky, comical facial expressions as she cowered from the threat of hamsters run amok. Smithers performed with mirthful liveliness as always. Williams and Gebhardt could have their own sitcom.

Want some holiday cheer? Come see Uncle Nick, and have, as Ted put it: “The best Christmas I ever had.”

Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.

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Uncle Nick plays through December 10, 2016, at Wolf Pack Theatre Company performing at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church – 5820 Riverdale Road, in Riverdale, MD. For ticket information and reservations, call (240) 271-5471, email dean912@live.com, or purchase them online.

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