Dallas — You won’t find a more unusual holiday show than the one Soul Rep Theatre Company has resurrected from its trunk. A Hostile Holiday, at South Dallas Cultural Center, was originally written by Guinea Bennett-Price for an outreach program at Dallas Children’s Theater more than 10 years ago and was mostly seen by young audiences.
Now that Soul Rep is back they’ve dusted it off and expanded it (with the writing help of Camika Spencer) for an audience of a wider age range.
The story deals with two rival actor reptiles, Hostile Crocodile (Keith Price) and Agitator Alligator (Douglas Carter), in the bayou, as Hostile is trying to save his theater company Watermain Theatre (intended or not, gotta love the reference to Dallas’ Undermain Theatre). Colleen Crocodile (Lisa B. Whitfield) is trying to promote her belly cream, and so Hostile and Agitator compete over who should star in a commercial for it. That is complicated by serpent Slick Sid (Rachael Webb), who wants to turn the face-off into a pageant for a reality show. There’s no money in the theater, after all.
The wackiness is amped up with diva Mrs. Swamp Thing (Monique Ridge-Williams), Jefferson Frog (Mark Ewing), Mona Frog (Kendall Robertson) and a chorus of back-up Mosquitoes (played by Zalayna Antonia Jenkins, Genesis Williams, Zuri Williams and Brianna McCain).
Directed by Dee Smith and LaHunter Smith (Smith also choreographed), and with colorful, imaginative costumes by David Benn (the photos with this review don't represent them fully), the play is a bit too long with an odd distribution of text and songs (original music by Stephen Jeffrey, lyrics by Spencer and Keith Price). But it’s one of the best kinds of art intended for young audiences in that the young’uns will be delighted by the silliness, but the themes and best jokes are cleverly designed for adults.
Mixed in with those kid-friendly, fantastical characters doing wacky things and singing about them, there are messages about art vs. commerce, lowbrow vs. highbrow and the difficulties of funding and running an arts organization.
The cast has a ball with it, especially out-sized scene-stealer Ridge-Williams, Keith Price as the croc with standards, and Carter as the crotchety gator.
As for a Christmas tie-in? It’s not really there, but think of “holiday” in terms of a break from the normal workaday routine. People who have invested their lives in the arts never really have those, but it’s always fun to dream.