As the play begins, whimsically dressed elves Jo-Jo (Milo Kotis) and Jim-Jim (Kiet Tai Cao) converge on the stage as a geeky, greek-y chorus of two. These elfin bards strum their guitars and inform us essentially that “snow is slow, but this show is not slow.”
This fact soon became apparent, as this snowball of a piece slowly started rolling down the hill, picking up speed and snow across a 70-minute span with no escape for its hapless characters.
The story begins with a confrontation between spiritless couple George and Mary (think It’s a Wonderful Life, years later – a coincidence?). George (Arthur Aulisi), drunk and incensed, stumbles home in a rage after having been been tipped off by Mrs. Claus (Ayun Halliday) that his wife Mary (Polly Lee) has been having an ongoing illicit annual tryst with Santa Claus (David Carl) on Christmas Eve. George also learns that their two pre-teen children, Luke (Cy Rowan) and Freya (Nina Watson), gifted with unusual powers, are really the offspring of the legendary Claus, a womanizing bully who only shows his sweet side to naive and unsuspecting children. Santa whisks Mary and the children off to the North Pole to live with him, leaving a drunken George behind and relegating Mrs. Claus to the North Pole guest house.
Mrs. Claus is having none of this; she hides Santa’s life-giving joy-weed as she and Claus, gods older than the residents of Mount Olympus, battle it out with their superpowers. The angry Mrs. C. also tries to use poisoned candy wine and hot chocolate to be rid Mary and the children. With the help of said poisoned wine, an apocalyptic candy cane, and the manipulations of the two poor enslaved elves, all residents of the North Pole eventually die and become ghosts. They all descend on George and Mary’s house with the intention of taking up residence in the living form of an unsuspecting George, but to no avail.
As the spirit of Mrs. Claus summons her powers to end the world in her fury, deus ex machina arrives in the form of an Igloo car and the children’s inherited superpowers. The igloo car brings Mary and the children back home to the supernatural battle ground, and the children’s superpowers turn back time to the moment when the play begins, making George and Mary be nice to each other just long enough to prevent the Clauses from disrupting their happy family. After a fitting holiday morality tune sung by the entire cast, one assumes Mr. and Mrs. Claus leave the happy family in peace and return with their elves to the North Pole to live out their immortal, embittered lives.
This nonsensical, broad comedy is penned by the clever Greg Kotis (Urinetown) who also wrote the amusing songs. Arrangements by musical director Steven Gross are whimsical and entertaining, and costume designer Whitney Locher presents her vaudevillian best in this frothy piece.
Led expertly by director Ilana Becker, the cast bludgeons, connives and wiggles their way through this slice of holiday slapstick; young and old, the actors’ comic timing is well-honed and the fun they have performing this piece is entirely infectious.
If you’re looking for pinch and a diddle in the middle of what passes for a bit of festive fun, look no further than this silly piece of holiday candy.
The Truth About Santa (through December 20, 2018)
Theater of the Apes
The Tank, 312 West 36th Street, 1st Floor (use back elevator only), in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-563-6269 or visit https://www.thetanknyc.org/
Running time: 75 minutes with no intermission