In A Christmas Closet, the Rude Guerrilla Theatre Company retakes the holiday for the rest of us, giving bitter child-hating Santas, lonely twentysomething bartenders and adolescent girls grappling with their emerging sexual identities their very own Christmas story—which is notable, I guess, even if these "alternative" holiday plays are largely unmoving.
A Christmas Closet leads with its strongest short play, "Christmas Kisses," written by Aurelio Locsin and directed by Erika Tai. Sweetly set in the imagination of young Naomi (Jami McCoy), "Christmas Kisses" is a look at what some girls get out of playing with dolls—a safe place where their fantasies can be played out and validated. Returning a sense of innocence to the emergence of sexual identity, "Christmas Kisses" sets the bar high for the remaining plays.
Second up is "Christmas Story #3," written and directed by Robert M. Tully. Here, a pedophilic shopping-mall Santa's hate for children runs so deep that he ends the play devising a plan to violate the pretty little girl ("played" by a 4-foot-tall stuffed doll) sitting on his knee. Disturbing? Yup. But with that sort of taboo invoked, the audience needs to get more for its investment than just being grossed out—and we don't. Tully also wrote and directed "Santaism," but the one note this plays sticks with is the disgruntled, anti-everything holiday rant we've all heard before.
Which is the trouble with too many of these one-acts: they assign an "alternative" or "marginalized" identity to various one-dimensional characters and leave it at that, hoping this will be enough to stimulate and keep our interest. For instance, "No More Angels," written by Stephen Ludwig and directed by periodic OC Weeklycontributor Dave Barton, is the story of a couple that meets on Christmas Eve at a neighborhood bar. The patron is drawn to the attractive bartender, and they end up hooking up for what begins as a Christmas fling—but the story's nothing special, even if I tell you that the bartender's name is Michael (Justin Radford) and the patron's name is Greg (Kurt Jarrard). Perhaps especially then.
Written by Norman Hudis and directed by Dave Barton, the title one-act, "A Christmas Closet," is the production's finale; it turns Dickens' Scrooge into a closeted gay debt collector named S.K. Rouge (Alex Walters), proving that you need more than a gay protagonist to provoke an audience nowadays. In the end, Rude Guerrilla, in its desire for alterna-shock-and-awe, seems to have lost sight of the complexity of its chosen task: to produce provocative, aggressively thoughtful performances.
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A CHRISTMAS CLOSET AT RUDE GUERRILLA THEATRE COMPANY, 200 N. BROADWAY, SANTA ANA, (714) 547-4688. THURS.-SAT., DEC. 15-17, 8 P.M. $10-$18.