by Lynn on November 28, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Centaur Theatre, Montreal, Quebec. Until Dec. 5, 2021.

Written and directed by Rebecca Northan

Set and costumes by James Lavoie

Lighting by Andrea Lundy

Sound by Bruce Horak

Cast: Mariah Inger

Gabe Maharjan

Amelia Sargisson

Even elves get flustered and lose focus at Christmas when the rush is on. A good sense of humour, lots of silliness helps and Rebecca Northan’s play is loaded with both.

The Story. It’s December 23 at the North Pole. They are short staffed and Nog, an extremely efficient, serious-minded manager elf, decides to take a chance and hire Ginger, who has been fired from every job she’s ever had. But Nog needs someone and hires Ginger. Nog and Ginger are siblings. Matters get sticky and it’s not just the candy treats on hand for breaks.

There’s a lot that Ginger must deal with. She has to read and record the letters received from kids and what they want for Christmas. Ginger then has to sort the letters into their proper colour-coded bags. She must find her sixth sense to ferret out the letters from kids who were bad. Then she has to keep track of  the presents that Santa receives and intuit if it’s a good or bad present. And she has to answer the old-fashioned-multi-lined-telephone-answering board. And then a mysterious ‘guest’ appears and throws everyone in a tizzy.   

The Production. James Lavoie has created an impressive set that fills the whole stage of the Centaur Theatre, both width-wise and height-wise. Bags of letters and other stuff fill shelves that go up at least 20 feet. There is an upper level to the place and to get to the ground level efficiently and quickly elves etc. use a fire pole.

First Nog (Gabe Maharjan) appears from the upper level, stage left and effortlessly slides down the pole to the ground level. Every movement of Nog is graceful and even balletic from their stance (a modified ‘first position’), to the calm, self-contained posture, always patient and measured. Next we see Ginger (Amelia Sargisson) appear on the upper level. She is energetic, kinetic, emotionally charged and fun-loving almost to a fault. She slides down the fire-pole but ads spin to the endeavor. Sublime. As calm and controlled as Nog is Ginger is excitable, rambunctious and carefree. She tries so hard to control herself. She is mindful that she has been fired from every job. She knows her sibling Nog is taking a chance by hiring her for this important job.  It’s just that Ginger can’t help herself.

The elves are mop-haired and pointy-eared. They wear thick sneakers that have a flip at the front—perhaps for better traction to flit quickly. Kudos to Lames Lavoie as well for the costumes.  

Nog, as played by Gabe Maharjan is so kind to Ginger. The tone is always controlled and calm. That’s how Nog has succeeded in everything. That’s why Nog is so efficient, thoughtful and accomplished. Ginger, as played by Amelia Sargisson, is like a spinning top, movements are so quick as to be in a blur. Sargisson makes Ginger dear and lovable and we wish so hard for her to calm down and succeed and know that might not be possible. We love her anyway.

Both Gabe Maharjan and Amelia Sargisson are such gifted actors that being able to see their work is a present in itself. I can’t reveal too much about Marge (Mariah Inger) the mystery guest, except to say she represents, in many ways, the perils of on-line dating. Mariah Inger is fearless in her own way as Marge. She is both sad and resourceful. She is tenacious and hopeful. She is a mystery guest we don’t mind meeting and cheering on.

Writer-director Rebecca Northan is a master of comedy. She has been doing improvisation for her whole career as well as other kinds of comedy. She is perhaps best known for her one person show Blind Date, but there is so much more to her comedic arsenal.

Rebecca Northan’s production is peppered with echoes of iconic comedic routines or shows. One of Ginger’s first lines is “What a dump” which got me thinking of that same stunning line from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, said by the character Martha, which in turn echoed the same line from a film with Bette Davis. At another point the job Ginger was hired for exploded on her: letters to be sorted fluttered down from the ceiling; at the same time presents shot down the shoot in a cascade to such an extent that she could not keep up. I thought of that iconic routine in I Love Lucy when Lucy had to do quality control on a conveyor belt full of chocolates, until the speed of the conveyor belt went into warp speed and the chocolates shot down…Hilarious. As this show is for people 12 and older, I just made it under the wire to appreciate the silliness and old enough to remember other memorable routines that reference this festive production.   

Comment. When gifted people toil and write a show during a pandemic and then get it produced in Montreal with more gifted people, then it behooves us to go and check it out in support and enthusiasm. Seeing All I Want for Christmas at the Centaur Theatre in Montreal is a total delight. It’s a great way of coming back to the theater after a lousy pandemic kept us home, and it’s a lovely way to celebrate any holiday you want to celebrate.

Centaur Theatre presents:

Plays until: Dec. 5, 2021.

Running Time: 80 minutes.

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1 Joe Szekeres November 28, 2021 at 5:02 pm

I really wanted to get to see this production as it looked to be so much fun. Dang pandemic….. hopefully soon. Pleased to hear the production is good.