Review: Gaslight lets it snow

2013-11-27T17:30:00Z 2014-07-01T14:22:25Z Review: Gaslight lets it snowBy Kathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Just have to say this:

Singing “Frosty the Snowman” when it’s close to 70 degrees outside just seems so ... wrong.

On the other hand, so right when it’s done on The Gaslight Theatre stage, which marks most every November with its holiday show.

This year, it’s “A Smalltown Christmas,” written by the theater’s resident playwright, Peter Van Slyke, who also directs this production.

Now, Gaslight has staged this play a few times before. Oh sure, each has had a slightly different storyline, but the characters are the same.

And, frankly, we find it quite astounding that Van Slyke keeps coming up with fresh (well, sort of fresh) puns and more corn than a Kansas farm field. And he somehow makes us feel we are seeing the play for the first time.

The bad guy, as before, is Mayor Dishwater, played with scene-chewing abandonment by Joe Cooper. Dishwater — whose boo-line is “Christmas is ridiculous” — wants to squash the holiday spirit so that everyone in Smalltown is so miserable they will move away. Then Dishwater will make a bundle by replacing the town with a four-lane highway.

But dimpled Rolinda Porter has a spirit that cannot be dampened. She’ll decorate her dad’s record story with wreaths and a tree, and be full of so much optimistic holiday cheer that your teeth will hurt. Tarreyn Van Slyke — the playwright’s daughter — fully embraces the saccharine spirit and she makes it hard not to believe in Santa Claus, good in the world, and that everything will turn out all right.

It’s the ‘50s, and Rolinda is in love with the rock ‘n’ rolling HotRod Lincoln (Jake Chapman, whose boundless energy is astounding). He has been in the military but gets home just in time to celebrate Christmas. And save the town, maybe. That Dishwater, assisted by his empty-headed son (Mike Yarema) and the son’s mean-spirited girlfriend (Heather Stricker), sure make it hard to get any good accomplished.

Interspersed in all this are rock ‘n’ roll tunes that evoke the times, the season, the weather and the aforementioned snowman.

It’s during the after-show “Surfin’ Santa” olio, when the cast treats the audience to a slew of songs, that the writer/director has really let the puns run wild.

The scene is this: Santa is on a beach holiday before the big day. It’s a “Santa-pause” one character explains.

“What do you get when you cross a snowman with a shark” is a question thrown out.

The answer: “Frosty bite.”

If Santa gets a sunburn while on holiday, he’ll be “Crisp Kringle.”

Do you have a fear of Santa? That would be “Clausedephobia.”

Oh, it’s all too much.

And too funny.

Yes, the weather outside is delightful. This Gaslight show is, too.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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