for a fix, jello topped with mayonnaise, getting shot at while delivering a Christmas
present, and a brawl between two couples - one Jewish, one Mormon. Such are the seasonal
joys in Sacred Fools' bracingly raucous bill of eight holiday-themed plays. The assemblage
makes for a long, often manic, occasionally flat evening. It's a wonderful opportunity for
the ensemble to show off its razzle-dazzle. In David Rodwin's savage Holiday Resort,
directed by Quinn Sullivan, the clash of Nastler family and the Goode clan provokes
anything but good cheer; P.J. Byrne, Linda Miller and Tina Ballabio bristle in their
roles. Blue X-Mas, written by Joshua Rebell, contains the production's most intriguing
storytelling, tracing monied Will's (Jeff Benninghofen) mysterious odyssey through New
York on an apparently innocuous errand. David P. Moore's direction makes good use of the
Heliotrope Theater's wide stage. George Larkin's The Naked Holidays Opening, directed
gleefully by Alexander Yannis Stephano, is the pick of the show. A multicultural mιlange
outlining the contrasting traditions of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa melds with a
debunking of Christian traditions, climaxing in a semi-clothed chorus line.
Paul B. Cohen
Perhaps it was to distinguish themselves from the flood of
Christmas Carols and Nutcrackers on stages this December, or maybe their costume budget
had shrunk to the size of a sugar plum. Whatever the reason, the wacky folks at Sacred
Fools have shunned tradition and instead put together an evening of sex and silliness
called Naked Holidays to celebrate the season. As evidenced by the opening ensemble
number-which includes a straight-laced Amish couple bellowing about the Bible while
indulging in a spanking session, and men in g-strings emblazoned with proclamations such
as "Stocking Stuffer"-most anything goes with this goofy group. Written
and directed by a total of 16 different company members, Naked Holidays is a collection of
eight adult-themed shorts that look, through rather twisted lenses, at Christmas,
Hanukkah, and other versions of holiday celebrations. "Terry Twigstix and the
Christmas Lesson," for example, is partly narrated in Dr. Suess-like fashion by
Lisette Bross and her rod-puppet mouse, and concerns two kids (Shirley Anderson and Eric
C. Johnson) who conjure up a half-naked, wild-looking God of Winter named Terry Twigstix
(Benjamin Davis) to teach their Grinchy old grandma (Elizabeth Warner) a tough lesson.
And "The Christmas Fix," based on William S.
Burroughs' A Junky's Christmas, demonstrates that even an addict (Joe Hernandez-Kolski)
can get into the holiday spirit when he eases a sick child's (Dean Jacobson) pain by
giving him the drugs he just scored. This tale is narrated by Maggie the Smoke Poet (a
terrifically bold Jennifer Barrick), dressed as a combat vet, in a dark, urbanized
take-off of ""Twas the Night Before Christmas."
Lots of heart (and flesh) is revealed in "Nude, Nude,
Nude, Holidays,Holidays, Holidays," in which a group of seasoned strippers (Barrick
as dominatrix Tiffany, Ariadne Shaffer as working mom Candy, and Lisa Grant as little
drummer girl Jasmine) pool their tips to send the homesick new girl, Amber (Stephanie Noel
Little), back to her Midwest family for the holidays.
In the intriguing but somewhat convoluted "Blue
X-mas," an unknowingly neglectful husband (an appealing Jeff Benninghofen) gets a
holiday lesson in appreciating his wife (Babe Marie Hack). Timbre Henning sparks a lot of
laughs here as an off-kilter receptionist.
In "Credit Where Credit Is Due," an arrogant,
self-absorbed producer (John Hamm) learns about forgiveness and sharing when Santa (Scott
McShane) finally delivers the train set he'd asked for, and never received, in 1973,
during his parent's break-up. "Holiday Burn" refers not only to Grandma's (Ruth
Silveira) tendency to overcook the meat, but to the way her granddaughter Lisa (Jessie
Marion) reacts when Lisa's well-meaning but condescending mother (Noelle Potvin) arrives
for dinner. And "Holiday Resort" examines the peculiar proclivities, sexual and
otherwise, of two different families-one ridiculously high-strung and the other absurdly
cheerful-as they celebrate Christmas together at a desert spa.
Simple props, set pieces, and sound effects, supported by
Aaron Francis' congenial lighting, help keep Naked Holidays exactly what it is: a
frivolous and somewhat saucy way to make merry this holiday season.
There are 8 million stories in the naked holidays . . . and
"Naked Holidays," at Sacred Fools Theatre, tells seven of them. It's naked in
the sense of exposing all sorts of holiday-related emotions--the jangled as well as the
jingled--as well as in a more literal way. Although there's no full frontal nudity, a few
moments come close (with both genders). There are scenes of sex and violence. This is not
a show for kids. Most of the clothes come off near the end of George Larkin's frisky
musical introduction, which also establishes that the holidays in question include
Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and solstice celebrations, as well as Christmas. The show pokes fun at
its own ethnic nondiversity by enlisting an unwilling white guy (Jeff Benninghofen) to
explain Kwanzaa. Not all of the seven vignettes that follow are especially raw. Even
John Sylvain's "Nude Nude Nude," which is set backstage at a strip club, is
sentimental in the time-honored Christmas tradition.
In Joshua Rebell's "Blue X-mas," "blue"
refers to melancholic, not to risquι. Rebell tells a shaggy-dog story about an upscale
New Yorker (Benninghofen), bored by the holidays, who's asked to deliver a present by his
wife and becomes involved in a trail of unsettling intrigue. Loose ends dangle, but the
protagonist ends up excited anew by life and by his wife. As directed by David P. Moore,
it's a strange but satisfying pick-me-up.
Nothing else is as good. The first sketch is the most
ambitious--combining puppetry, rhymed couplets, a mythological being and dark generational
satire--but it misfires in a big way. Many of the other pieces, more modest in ambition,
Donna Tina Charles' "Holiday Burn" pokes fun at
Middle American culinary standards and control freaks. Rik Keller's "Credit Where
Credit Is Due" is a tongue-in-cheek account of a tardy Santa's transformation of a
salacious Hollywood mogul. David Rodwin's "Holiday Resort" offers a bit of local
California color before it slips into heavy-handed domestic lampoonery. Paul Plunkett's
"The Christmas Fix," based on William S. Burroughs' "A Junky's
Christmas," nimbly displays the holiday spirit at work in the lower depths.
- DON SHIRLEY