One play is called For Christmas, which is a real, um, Christ-miss (😐🔫). The other is SnowGlobed, a medley of 10-minute plays written by local playwrights, some of which are pretty good and two of which are great. Each year, the company develops one of the SnowGlobed shorts into a full-fledged play, which is how For Christmas was born, but lord do I wish there was a way to stuff that baby back up its mother's womb.
For Christmas runs in a cool, open practice space above West of Lenin's main theater. A small audience (the area can only hold 15 people) sits on boxes and trunks lined along the walls. The stage and seating situation, designed by Kasia Rozanska, makes sense considering the plot of Nick Edwards's script, but that's where the sense-making ends in this deeply boring and at times objectionable play.
Act I: Santa and Jesus try to move a couch through a door. This non-issue is as boring and unrevealing of the characters as it sounds. Act II: Jesus and Santa play a drunken card came to determine who will win Christmas. My notes re: the script: "If I have to watch two people drink and make bad jokes about Henry Weinhards beer and have a stilted, half-remembered conversation about nothing for another minute, I'm going to scream." I did not scream, but trying not to do so was a chore. The fact that the play begins at 11:00 pm doesn't help any of this. There is a moment around midnight when Santa lies down to sleep on the floor, and when I saw that all I wanted to do was pass out. But I was sitting on a box next to the owner of West of Lenin, and so I couldn't. Plus, I snore.
But to be fair, like I said, I also saw SnowGlobed that night at West of Lenin, and it was pretty fun! Distrust of and hatred for the wealthy united the shorts thematically. The first two plays—one about a divorced couple trying to split Christmas and the other about the sad life of a Christmastide evergreen—were basically SNL bits that didn't escalate quickly enough. After the slow start, though, the company really brought it.
"White Kwanzaa (an appropriation comedy)," by Nicky Davis, was straight up gold. Two misguided white couples celebrate Kwanzaa. They listen and dance to hip hop; decorate their house with "traditional" "African" cornucopias, and claim to have cooked the celebratory meal using recipes from a cookbook called "Little Sambo's Kitchen." The satire here is spot on and timely, considering we still live in an era when Yale professors think it's okay for people to run around on Halloween wearing another culture as their costume.
"White Kwanzaa" was strong, but Kelleen Conway Blanchard's "Rats & Roaches" was the best 10 minutes of theater I witnessed that evening. The premise was pretty familiar: Three British street urchins catch rats and roaches at a "home for unwanted children" for a Fagan-like person named Sleevil (sp?). But Blanchard freshens up this Oliver-Twist-type story with hilarious language and plenty imaginative punch: a skinny Santa, for instance, ends up leading a gang of alligators in an effort to avenge the dispossessed. None of the actors seemed to be able to maintain their accents, but the language shined through regardless. If one play gets selected for a full-scale production next year, I hope it's this one.