Thursday, December 15, 2011

review - The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever!

The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever!
by Joe Marshall
directed by Paul Storiale
Avery Schreiber Theatre
Thursdays, Fridays through December 30

For those who prefer theatre with a message, this is your play; for those who prefer a screamingly funny time, you've also come to the right place - Joe Marshall's The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever! is now making its West Coast premiere at the Avery Schreiber Theatre. Yes, it's sacrilegious, irreverent, so no one is spared, yet it's a play with a whole lot of tolerance and love for everyone. With a tightly-knit cast and meticulous direction from Paul Storiale, this Christmas Pageant should run annually for many years to come.

Two lovers Rod and Manny (Dennis Delsing and Charlie Vaughn respectively) run the Triangle Theatre Co in WeHo and decide to present a  Gay Christmas Pageant as a fundraiser. Manny, without Rod's knowledge/ consent, has pulled in a  famous playwright to mount his show. When the playwright is insulted and abruptly walks out, Manny must resort to a more flagrant, controversial script Rod has written. Then suddenly Rod has an accident on set, and Manny brings in a New York director, (E.D. Brown) who is thoroughly disgusted with the lack of professionalism in the script and the theatre company. But she agrees to stay on, as a favor to the two boys. There's a dizzying audition, an unbelievably arduous rehearsal period and then the horrifying production beset by accidents, bad karma and bad reviews - that inexplicably turns into a great big hit for the theatre, kind of like Springtime for Hitler in The Producers. The script is insulting to homosexuals, to most races and, more urgently, to the whole Christian concept of Christmas. The straight - but gay wannabe, pot-smoking tech man Jim ( a very funny Josh Patton) has a bigoted mother Monica (over-the-top hilarious Debbie Lockhart) who slings out more notorious remarks than Don Rickles and Rodney Dangerfield combined. There is nothing held back in this hoot 'n holler play; hard to find a virgin at orgy's end.
Paul Storiale has marvelously staged 18 actors in the long but narrow black box stage, and the entire cast are having a riproaring time. Apart from those already mentioned, praise as well goes to Garrett Braddock as Spike/Fromage, William Cutting, Geo Santini as a very affable Je sus, Jen McGlone, Eljaye Montenegro, Sean Cameron Young, Allyson Mandelbaum, Matt Wiley, and every other actor who trods these boards. Marshall's script is deliciously scathing and the entire company bring it orgiastically to life.
Those who object to the show have difficulty looking within and laughing at what they see. The play's message? Love who you are and translate that into the work! This is a total love of theatre at its fragile best!

5 out of 5 stars

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