So This is Christmas presents a different perspective on the upcoming holiday: one that is more appropriate for adults than families, with a focus on what Christmas means instead of how we celebrate it. Both plays could have easily taken place at any other time of year but fit nicely together as a start to the season.
The evening opened with Jim Holt’s “Sleeping Indoors”, a one-hour play about a family that invites a destitute stranger into their home for Christmas dinner. From that description, one can expect a mushy diatribe on the values of generosity and charity. What emerged was a much more complex and interesting investigation on homelessness. The houseguest has written a literary masterpiece and our well-meaning hosts pressure him to publish, thus trading the only life he’s ever known for the chance to sleep indoors on a regular basis. As educated, cultured, and well-employed people, do they really “know best”?
I really enjoyed this play. The interactions between the characters were believable to the point that I forgot I was watching actors on stage. I particularly liked Bobby Robert’s turn as the immensely personable Nora: the sweet, thoughtful, almost effervescent woman of the house who welcomed a stranger into her home without coaxing – or approval from her husband! There were lots of light moments, laughter, and music in “Sleeping Indoors” as well as amazing costumes and really stellar acting. If you excuse the warm weather cliché, Phoenix Players really knocked this one out of the park.
After intermission, So This is Christmas continued with Norm Foster’s two-hander “The Christmas Tree”. Dan and Sonja both arrive at a tree lot on Christmas Eve where there is only one tree left. Each tries to convince the other they are more deserving of the tree by trading outrageously pathetic holiday stories. The problem is that each of these stories is made up so we don’t really get a sense of who these characters are until the very end.
The audience and my companion clearly found the never-ending banter between Dan and Sonja charming since the theatre was full of laughs. I found it tedious and predictable. I didn’t care about these characters and frankly, I really didn’t like Dan. I thought he was oafish, annoying, and flat. By contrast, Lisa Moore’s Sonja was sarcastic, lively, and fun to watch but even she couldn’t salvage this play for me. That said, I may just be a Scrooge.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to know what you think. Would you ever invite a stranger into your home for the holidays? Is a literary masterpiece property of society or its author? And was The Christmas Tree touching or tiresome? Join the discussion in the comments below.