A review of the family-dynamic comedy “This Christmas,” playing at Taproot Theatre through Dec. 26.
At first, “This Christmas” seems more TV sitcom or Neil-Simon-lite than a holiday play, but gradually, as it moves into Act II, the significance and lessons of the Christmas story flood the stage. Packaged in a delightfully comic script by Anne Kennedy Brady, the show is actually about generosity, neighborliness, kindness and goodwill. Director Scott Nolte makes sure that those are the clear messages.
It’s Christmas Eve. Leah and Mark, newcomers to Seattle, are barely settled in. A small tree waits to be decorated, but Mark is obsessively working on his novel. He’s like so many writers; when his creative juices are flowing, he can’t possibly stop. Matt Shimkus, as the preoccupied Mark, blows off Leah’s entreaties to turn off the computer and get ready for their dinner out.
Although he doesn’t know it, tonight’s dinner is particularly important to Leah. When the lights are low and a special dessert cake is served, Mark will learn that he’s to be a father. Poor Leah — instead of the romantic evening she’s planned to share her momentous news, she winds up with a house full of crazy people, no privacy, and a ruined surprise.
Through Dec. 26, Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle; $15-$40 (206-781-9707 or taproottheatre.org).
The first to arrive is Mark’s mother. Macall Gordon plays her as a lovable but coy divorcee on the prowl, especially so when the upstairs neighbor (Robert Gallaher) pops in. He’s ever so proper, but not quite what he purports to be. Mom is one of those “the more the merrier” people, so it’s not surprising when the door bell rings and her big bear of a Bosnian cabdriver (amply played by Kevin Bordi) shows up at her invitation.
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Singular characters are a strength of this production. The final unexpected guest is Elise, the dippy girl from the restaurant. Played by Jenny Cross, whose comic timing is spot on, she shows up with that “welcome baby” cake Leah had ordered along with a few unwanted pregnancy instructions, thus guaranteeing that Leah’s romantic plans are ruined.
Poor Leah! Sensitively played by Charity Parenzini, she’s a lovely, levelheaded, and desperately disappointed mother-to-be, but by the end she realizes that the announcement isn’t nearly as important as the love it represents.