Caroline Russell-King offers her patented Postcard Review of Lunchbox Theatre’s current production of Neil Fleming’s Last Christmas.
Show: Last Christmas
Playwright(s): Neil Fleming
Production company/theatre space: Lunchbox Theatre.
Length: One act (70 mins., no intermission.)
Premise: At his last Christmas gathering, a father delivers the news to his two feuding daughters and flunking-out-of-school grandson.
Why this play? Why now?: What’s Christmas without a play about family dysfunction?
Curiosities: I wondered what it would have been like to have done this show years ago when actors could smoke herb cigarettes without fear, spritz pine fragrances without “no scents” reprisals and unleash food smells without audience complaint. I wondered how difficult it is to show conflict without a false feeling of frenetic petulance. Lastly, I was curious why the theatre wasn’t selling the books in the lobby after the show; the audience could meet and get autographed published plays from the playwright (and a portion of the sales turned back into revenue…).
Notable moment: Cheryl Hutton, who plays Paula, subtly lets the crack show in her otherwise perfect veneer and doesn’t succumb to shtick.
Notable writing: As the laws have changed since the play first premiered, I imagine Neil Fleming, who is well known for his comedies, made some tweaks to update this script but retained all the laughs and charm.
Notable performances: Robert Klein, playing grandfather Jake, and Griffin Cork, as grandson Riley, share some lovely bonding moments that unite across a generational divide.
Notable design/production: Playwright Fleming also shows off his skills as scenic and lighting designer.
Notable direction: Director Shari Wattling delivers us a lovely gift, adroitly unpacking the plot along with the charismas presents.
One reason to see this show: Give yourself and others the present of laughter, it’s something all celebrating and non-celebrating families will enjoy.
Last Christmas run at Lunchbox Theatre until Dec. 21.
(Photo courtesy Benjamin Laird.)
Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here at www.carolinerussellking.com.