Flashpoint is one of Philly’s smaller theatre companies that share space at the Adrienne on Sansom Street. The company was founded in 2003 by 5 Drew University arts grads, and was conceived as “a place where contemporary and cutting-edge work could be produced collaboratively”. Well, they’ve certainly lived up to their mission—even during the holiday season when a lot of companies opt for traditional Christmas fare. This year they’ve mixed things up a bit and are offering two productions in rep as anecdotes to the usual sentimental stuff seen around the area. No Dickens for this bunch, no siree.
For the 7th season in a row, co-founder Derick Loafmann is back as “Crumpet” in the stage version of David Sedaris’ chronicle of his holiday in hell as a Macy’s elf. THE SANTALAND DIARIES was adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello in 1996. Sedaris first read the piece on NPR on Dec. 23rd of 1992. He had been discovered by radio host Ira Glass as he was doing readings from his diary at a club in Chicago. It has become a Philly tradition for Flashpoint Theatre Company to revive it each holiday season. For the second year in a row, directorial duties have been handled by Noah Hermann, the company’s Audience Services Manager. It’s a good partnership between Herman and his actor; Loafmann has become one with the elf suit at this point, yet there is still a freshness to his performance. He’s an engaging actor who brings just the right amount of sad-sack and snark to the role.
For those not familiar with the piece, it’s a wild ride of escalating neuroses that one can’t help laughing at, and Loafmann deftly guides us through it. We hear all about the assorted crazies who work as fellow elves and Santas, and are regaled will vivid descriptions of the many visitors to Santaland. As someone who has dealt with the public throughout most of my working career, I totally relate to Crumpet’s pain. (When I worked “front-of-house” at an area theatre, my cohorts and I often plotted to claim one of our number had Tourette’s and turn them loose on the a-holes in the audience.)
The production crew has done great work here as well. Crisp and simple, everyone’s contribution serves this hour-plus of quirky fun well. So, here’s a holiday toast to Maria Shaplin for her lighting design, John Glaubitz for the sound, Regina M. Rizzo for costumes and Meghann Williams for props.
Now on to the distaff part of this seasonal set:
When I am assigned a review, I do as much research as possible on the theatre, the playwright, the play and the genre as I can. A new piece makes this challenging, but interesting. But how does one research something called CHLAMYDIA FOR CHRISTMAS & HERPES FOR HANUKKAH?
This bit of hilarity is subtitled “More Sex-Ed Burlesque for the Holidays”. The whole thing started this past summer when Gigi Naglak and Meghann Williams created and presented “Chlamydia dell’Arte” during this year’s Fringe Fest. Okay, I’m familiar with Commedia dell’arte; the literal translation of which is “comedy of the craft of improvisation”. Ya got your stereotyped characters, your masks and your “lazzis” [a special bit of comedic business that each performer is known for]. Fortunately, I am NOT familiar with Chlamydia [but I loved the play on words!]
Well their effort was a huge success, so the ladies are back with a new piece for the holidays. Alright, moving on to the rest of the title. I am more than familiar with Christmas and Hanukkah. And I’m familiar with burlesque. [The word derives from the Italian burlesco, which itself derives from the Italian burla – a joke, ridicule or mockery. See, STAGE is educational, too!]
Oh—and I’m familiar with sex, too. Honestly.
How to describe these 60-some minutes of crazy ladyness is beyond me—ya just have to go see it. Ms. Naglak and Ms. Williams are a hoot. They have definitely warmed to their subject—and thrown caution to the wind. The show is framed by some terrific video bits featuring the ladies as 2 elderly school teachers conducting a Sex-Ed class, as well as some wonderfully frank video interviews with an assortment of ladies on a variety of topics.
In between the videos, we are treated to some very funny bits, sassy songs and daring dance—all under the deft direction of Amy Smith. Two of my favorites: Mary and Joseph waiting for the pregnancy test results and a 70s album of dildo holiday songs (Yes—you read that correctly. This show is NOT FOR THE KIDDIES—or the prudish!!) There’s also some saucy solo work by Ms. Naglak and Ms. Williams. The piece is inventive, fresh and a ton of laughs—and the ladies even manage to gently make a couple of political points about reproductive rights. (It was nice to see the younger generation appreciating the work of those 1970s trailblazers, and not taking the current situation lightly.)
The girls are gifted comediennes who bravely (almost) bare it all onstage.
Supporting their efforts are Maria Shaplin’s solid lighting design, Chris Collucci’s excellent soundscape, Regina M. Rizzo’s sexy costuming (which the gals manage to maneuver in and out of at lightning speed) and Ms. Williams’ hilarious props.
So, if you are looking for an alternative to the umpteenth version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, head on over to Flashpoint and laugh yourself silly.
Both productions are running in rep, on varying nights—so check the company’s website for specifics.
[P.S.—my apologies for the delay in getting this review in; I have been laid low by a flu-like malaise for the past few days. HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL.]
THE SANTALAND DIARIES
by David Sedaris
Adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello
Directed by Noah Herman
December 1 – 18, 2011
CHLAMYDIA FOR CHRISTMAS
& HERPES FOR HANUKKAH
Written & Performed by
Gigi Naglak and Meghann Williams
Directed by Amy Smith
November 30—December 17, 2011
Flashpoint Theatre Company
@ The Adrienne
2030 Sansom Street