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December 9, 2005

A little salty, instead of sweet

These shows remind us that the holidays are in winter, a dark time of year

Cleveland--The holiday season is sweeping over the land like a giant . . . sweeping thing. Broom. It’s sweeping over the land like a giant broom, flinging cheery, chirpy theatrical productions around in its wake like thespic dust-bunnies.

“God bless us, every one!”  “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”  “Eww! Dog germs!”

Such are the lines from these plays that will embed themselves in the brains of the unsuspecting, perky masses. However, there are those out there who are not of a mind to hear the tale of Rudolph, the alcoholic reindeer, one more time, nor do they wish to hear anything about snowmen with magical hats or anything of the like, especially if it involves a--gasp!--happy ending.

For these people, there is hope. It’s not a visit from three ghosts to enlighten them on the true meaning of anything. Rather, it is a collection of plays that may be a little darker than some would expect given the time of year, a little something to remind people that Christmas comes in winter, and winter is indeed a dark time of year.

The first two of these plays keep with the theme of the holidays: Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge, by gay playwright Christopher Durang, returns to Cleveland Public Theater after its successful run last year. It is joined by a triple dose of out essayist David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries, playing at Public as well as the Cleveland Play House and at the Canton Players Guild theater.

Mrs. Bob Cratchit, playing through December 18, picks up shortly after A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens’ iconic holiday tale, leaves off. Bob Cratchit keeps picking up foundlings and now there are almost two dozen living in the basement. Tiny Tim is a whiny brat, and Gladys Cratchit is beginning to think that Ebenezer Scrooge might have had the right idea, before those damned ghosts messed with his mind.

The ghosts make their return to spread some holiday cheer and put the fear of Santa into the hearts of the wicked, but can’t quite seem to get their act together, leading to an entirely different outcome than the last chapter in the Cratchit family saga.

The Santaland Diaries takes a different tack, instead delving into the true experiences of David Sedaris on the one Christmas that he made the terrible, horrible, rotten mistake of working as one of Santa’s elves at Macy’s Department Store in New York City. Surely starvation would be better than witnessing a woman telling her six-year-old son to piddle into a fake snowbank? Forcing a smile for that long must have horrible, long-term consequences for facial muscles.

The Santaland Diaries runs through December 18 at Cleveland Public Theater, and through December 16 at the Cleveland Play House Club, while A Christmas Story, based on the film, takes the stage at the Cleveland Play House itself.

Another production of Santaland is at the Canton Players Guild’s theater in the early part of the week, Mondays through Wednesdays December 5 to 7 and 12 to 14. Tickets are $10 at the door only for this 8 pm show, which is not part of the Guild’s season.

At Detroit Avenue Arts’ Orthodox Theater, Christmas just keeps getting queerer and queerer with the debut of Holiday Hotline, running through December 23 with Linda Eisenstein as composer and co-lyricist and Wild Plum Productions’ Denise Astorino as one of the stars in this musical comedy revue.

Eisenstein is the grand dame of Cleveland theater, with a wit so sharp you could take paper-thin slices off of a tomato with it. Astorino is one of the prime movers behind Cleveland’s LGBT arts organization, housed at the Cleveland GLBT Community Center. When the two collaborate, nothing but good can come of it.

Finally, over at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood is the world premiere of Eric Coble’s T.I.D.Y., taking the stage through December 18.

The play, which features gay dreamboat Kevin Joseph Kelley and bisexual bombshell (and new bride, dammit!) Alison Hernan-Garrigan, deals with a lonely woman trying to spend a quiet evening with her cat, only to discover that she has somehow unwittingly become the center of the largest international conspiracy in the history of large international conspiracies.

How does that relate to Christmas? It doesn’t. So there. But in a season where the closest thing to a Hanukkah play is Golda’s Balcony, running December 7 to 11 at Playhouse Square and described as a “riveting portrait of Golda Meir,” you’ll take what you’re given.

Contact the Beck Center at or 216-5212540. Cleveland Public Theater can be reached at 216-6312727 or For more information or tickets to Holiday Hotline at the Orthodox Theater, call 216-4911709 or go to Tickets for the Play House Club production of The Santaland Diaries and the Cleveland Play House’s production of A Christmas Story can be purchased at or by calling 216-7957000.




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