3 Stars out of 4
The adorable, handcrafted and intimate version of Ken Ludwig’s Twas the Night Before Christmas now up at the Rogers Park neighborhood Theatre Above the Law is a true DIY production in the spirit of Mickey Rooney and Lets Put on a Show! The mouse is a sock puppet (hilariously brought to life by the saucy and smart Keyanna Khatiblou.) Santa (a very funny and mellifluous John Watkins) has a paper plate and cotton ball beard, and the set is made out of cardboard. There is the option of sitting on a couch to watch, and the entire hour long show reminds me of my own family productions after dinner.
Ludwig’s formulaic script doesn’t take us to any new or deep places—it’s a holiday show with mistaken identities, a pompous uncle Brierly turned villain Sir Guy(Herb Metzler, no stranger to knights and fights) a trip to the North Pole, a purloined Naughty and Nice list. But theatres all over Chicagoland have dedicated this month to one or more holiday tropes, and it’s a good thing, because in December going to a show serves to draw community together. If you don’t want to get into a big political discussion with the cousins, head out to a show that reminds all of our collective mythology. And there is no better place to do that than the jewel of a neighborhood tucked under the CTA tracks at Jarvis, where a” dinner theatre “night can include a pub or a hole in the wall Indian restaurant. Oh, and there’s a wine bar kitty corner from the theatre!
Director Tony Lawry has assembled a tight ensemble that keeps the hour long show on pace. He utilizes the doors of the tiny black box to good effect for a truly comic chase scene that puts the audience in the middle of it all. It’s a delightful and charming evening of theatre suitable for the whole family.
Twas the Night Before Christmas is running weekends only from now through December 23rd at the McKaw Theater, 1439 West Jarvis in Chicago. For tickets and information go to www.theatreatl.org or call 773-655-7197.