Oh! Christmas Tree
Blunt Entertainment and Theatre of the New Heart
Runs until Dec. 23
Theatre Network, The Roxy on Gateway
8529 Gateway Blvd.
Tickets: $22 adults, $18 senior/students. Visit www.theatrenework.ca
For some, the lights of the holiday are all aglow. They dive into decorating a tree and putting up a gazillion ornaments. Others feel ambushed and have serious difficulty playing happy at Christmas.
Lucy and Algar are faced with two opposite viewpoints in their first Christmas together. The tensions rise and their close relationship starts to wheeze and sputter in Oh! Christmas Tree playing through Dec. 23 at Theatre Network, Live at the Roxy.
Lucy is an overworked party planner who caters to everyone’s needs – both clients and her intrusive Scandinavian family’s traditions. She embraces the season with unbridled joy and adorns the apartment with enough Christmas baubles to look like Las Vegas.
Instead Algar keeps his family at a distance and is tired of being made to feel like “a Christmas loser” because he despises vapid commercialization and materialistic gift giving.
To placate Lucy’s insistence at displaying a tree, he brings home a droopy Charlie Brown type and decorates his branches with hockey cards. The cards go against Lucy’s traditional ideas and she switches from polite persuasion to assorted catty remarks.
Family conflicts that have lain dormant throughout their relationship come roaring to the surface, especially now that they’re trapped under the same roof. If the couple wants to continue living together, they must find a constructive way of dealing with the past habits.
Under Blunt Entertainment’s moniker, renowned Edmonton playwright Conni Massing has developed a textbook example of how opposites attract. She has written a sharp-eared script that plays on the absurdity of how refusing to listen to seemingly small matters can erupt into a verbal volcano.
And her richly detailed characters, both likeable and endearing, quietly remind us of familiar settings and draw on our empathy even as the comedic sarcasm flies thick and fast.
Within this two-hander, Lora Brovold’s (Lucy) character arc goes from a happy chatterbox to a sweet seductress to a stressed-out Christmas psycho desperately needing a break from all the pressure and tensions. Despite Lucy’s explosive character arc, Brovold never lets us forget Lucy’s fundamental goodness, a sophisticated balancing act at best.
Collin Doyle’s Algar simply can’t get into the Christmas spirit, but he tries very hard to meet Lucy halfway. Things just don’t go his way, and Doyle’s face reveals a multitude of Algar’s emotions that range from confusion and guilt, to anger and sorrow.
As a real-life couple, Brovold and Doyle have instant chemistry, and their performances are quite moving. In particular the moments of tenderness and reconciliation while forging a new path together are so real and worth the cost of a ticket.
Kudos to St. Albert Children’s Theatre costume and set designer Marissa Kochanski for creating a spectacular Christmas set that is both over-the-top and intimate.
Director Brian Deedrick stands out for navigating the play’s sharp turns and insinuating a few teaching moments behind every plot twist.
Paul Morgan Donald’s sound design deserves a shout-out. While I’m keeping it under wraps so as not to spoil the surprise for theatregoers, know that it generated its share of chuckles on the preview night I attended.
Massing hesitated to call Oh! Christmas Tree a comedy because she didn’t want to set any high expectations. Too late. This is a light show filled with laughter and poignancy. But underneath the whimsy is an important message that will linger in your heart for a long time.