Plano — Ho, ho…ho? Mama got run over by a reindeer—or maybe it was Fun House Theatre and Film’s anti-Christmas spectacular Yes, Virginia Woolf, There Is a Santa Claus that left her with the feeling she’d been sleighed. Priceless title, impressive young cast. But you’ll need to be in the mood—and in the know—to get the most from this unusual piece of work.
Yes, Virginia Woolf is a Christmas-themed spoof of playwright Edward Albee’s soul-scarring play about marriage, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?—known mostly from the 1966 film with the Battling Burtons, Richard and Liz. And if you don’t know the play, you won’t get the clever riff that’s going on in this “Santa-fied” version written by playwright and director Jeff Swearingen, and performed by the talented teen actors of Fun House.
It’s Christmas again, but Santa and Martha Claus (Doak Campbell Rapp and Kennedy Waterman) look anything but merry. Home late from a holiday bash at her Dad’s place (she’s the daughter of the Big Boss, Father Time), Santa’s dreaming of a long winter’s nap. But Martha’s invited guests: a pair of new-fallen snowpeople, Slick and Flakey (Jaxon Beeson and Taylor Donnelson), and they’re tonight’s audience for the fun and games of this destructive marriage.
Rapp is amusing as a not-so-jolly Santa, gobbling jelly and worrying about other Christmas symbols gaining on him—“The Muppets, for Christ’s sake!” And he does a respectable Burton—“All I want for Christmas is spontaneous combustion,” he growls—though it’s unfortunate that his expressive face is buried in a Santa beard. And Waterman has Elizabeth Taylor’s Martha just right: grayed hair, rasping voice, yen for turkey legs. Beeson and Donnelson are as wide-eyed and clueless as you’d expect week-old Frosties to be, with the stiff-legged, lurching moves of baby reindeer. But they don’t stay innocent for long: Slick is lured into the kitchen by a cookie-baking Martha, and Flakey, between bouts of holiday hurling, is tormented by Santa, who knows the couple only married because they thought they’d found a snowbaby…who turned out to be an antenna ball. (If you know the original play, every time he calls her "honey" as a term of endearment, her reaction is priceless.)
Still with me? By now, you’ve probably decided if this is your cup of ‘nog…or not. But if you’re more in the mood for naughty than nice, Yes, Virginia Woolf might be for you. And once again, if you don’t know the original play script, read it/watch it/Wiki-it before you go. Swearingen’s tweaked plot, just like Albee’s, ends by smashing Santa and Martha’s illusions about their lives. Perhaps what’s missing—and where this spoof could have gone further—is any link to our lives and our illusions, particularly our (sometimes unconscious) expectation that “the holidays”—if we could only get them right—might fix what’s broken and heal what’s raw.
Strange stuff, but there’s no denying that something’s going on here between the creative team of Swearingen and producer Bren Rapp (the show’s concept is hers) and the actor-tots at Fun House—middle and high school students who barrel their way through material that leaves some adult actors in the dust. And in the last minutes of Yes, Virginia, Waterman and Rapp drop the comedy for an impressive (at any age) moment of emotional connection onstage.
In recent seasons, Fun House has put up a respectable Hamlet and its Stoppard variation, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and Daffodil Girls, a hilarious spoof of Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross (about a cutthroat Girl Scout-ish cookie sale). And now that they’ve blasted Santa, what could be next?
We’re waiting, kids.
And we’re just a little intimidated. (Exit, muttering: Whippersnappers….)