Christmastown, a holiday noir: Sneaky Feminist Christmas

Christmas standing gigs are a hallmark of the holiday entertainment season. A Christmas Story plays repeatedly on public television, carolers make their corporate rounds, and The Nutcracker takes over your local ballet venue. Often these standing gigs are money trains, a way to appease the masses who need ‘Holiday Cheer’ packaged as a tidy story so they can unconsciously assuage their capitalist, consumerism guilt and, if they’re good, an entertaining way to connect their audience to the true holiday spirit of selfless giving. Wayne Rawley’s Christmastown: A Holiday Noir is all of those and none of those. Performing at Seattle Public Theatre for the third year in a row, this holiday noir is a self aware poke at the nicely packaged Christmas story and a breath of fresh air with it’s sneaky feminist themes.

Christmastown is populated with brawl-starting elves, Gestapo reindeer, adult Tiny Tim and home to Santa Claus and E.B Wonderland, owner of Wonderland Department Store, the one stop shopping place for all things Christmas. Holly Wonderland, daughter of E.B. and the heir to the Wonderland monopoly, has hired cynical private eye Nick Holiday to investigate the discrepancies of her parentage: she has photos of her mommy kissing someone who looks a lot like Santa! Like a figgy pudding left in the oven too long, the plot gets thicker and thicker while Holiday uncovers a Christmastown conspiracy of Santa Claus sized proportions.

Rawley’s script is playfully irreverent, filled with quippy Christmas song lyrics re-purposed as dialogue. Many of the references are so suited to the plot and character situations, it takes you an extra three seconds to register the joke. When it lands, you’ll either erupt in laughter or groan in recognition but your groan is never one of displeasure or accompanied by a pessimistic eye roll. Under Anita Montgomery's deft direction, the talented ensemble of four--plus two helper stage hands--carry the self-aware script with an ease that is engaging and hilarious. John Ulman’s take on the pessimistic film noir protagonist manifests as an endearing, wise-cracking Scrooge personality. Brandon Felker’s multi-character track--Mrs. Claus, E.B. Wonderland, grown up Tiny Tim to name a few--is a master class in how specific yet simple vocal and physical changes can result in huge transformation. But it is the ladies, Carol Louise Thompson and Pilar O’Connell, that make the show truly sparkle. Thompson’s face, physicality, and vocal choices are so elastic and playful that it is difficult to watch anyone else when she is onstage. O’Connell’s femme fatale daintily toes the line between self-professed vamp and wholesome ingenue, is she good or is she naughty? Or, does she want you to realize that that binary is completely useless because women can be both and then more at the same time? Guess you’ll have to see the show to find out. Even for the grumpiest, holiday humbugs, there is something in this show for everyone.

Playing now through December 24th. Click here to purchase tickets!

  • Written by: Wayne Rawley
  • Directed by: Anita Montgomery
  • Produced by: Seattle Public Theatre
  • Review Lead: Sara Porkalob