KPBS AIRDATE: December 22, 2006
Well, it’s not even Christmas yet, and the kids are already climbing the walls. And your final nerve is frayed. So what’s a frazzled parent to do? Take the tykes to the theater, of course! The sassy gals of Moxie Theatre have whipped up a seasonal confection they’re calling “A Holiday Full of Moxie,” two one-acts that include the winner of the first Moxie Playwriting Contest. Not only are the shows distinctly family-friendly, but there’s even a special space for the little ones – a set of sort of mattresses laid out so the squirmy ones can squirm and the attentive ones can sprawl. This being a large elementary school cafetorium, however, the seats are rather far from the playing space. But the shows should delight young minds, and engage adults, too.
The winning script is something of an enigma. “A Claus for Alarm,” by Amy Chini and Tom Zohar, is a bit, shall we say, under-developed. Mrs. Claus is all by her lonesome on Christmas Eve. Santa’s gone, and he’s pretty much been gone for months, preparing for the Big Night. She’s cold, she’s deserted, and she’s resentful, stranded at the end of the earth, with nary a Starbuck’s in sight; she’s ready to leave Nicky-Boy for good. Enter a few dim-witted but well-intentioned Valley-speak elves to cheer her up and convince her to stay. But we never learn why they’re so committed to her, or what dreams she’s had to give up for this less-than-satisfying marriage. Everyone is a cardboard caricature, undeveloped and minimally motivated. The performers are game but gangly, and the result feels like kid stuff of the not-most-professional sort.
But then, as so often occurs at this time of year, a miracle happens. Those same five actors are miraculously transformed into dancers – graceful, focused and riveting — under the assured, dancerly direction of Erika Malone, a member of Eveoke Dance Theatre. Malone has wisely stylized Jennifer Eve Thorn’s simple but poignant playlet, “Mrs. Frank’s Third Grade Class Presents.” In this elementary school classroom, on this elementary school stage, the students are preparing for a show-and-tell that requires them to share their holiday traditions. Hesitantly, each stands and reveals a bit about their culture, religion and family ritual. Through the use of masks, evocative props and wonderfully spare movement, the mundane becomes magical. We learn about the Korean Lunar New Year and its delicate, silken kites. And the Jewish-Christian traditions of an intermarriage. One child’s family gives to the needy. Another child, with a single, working mom, is the needy. The piece ends on a lovely note of hope and holiday spirit. The little ones seemed mesmerized, and the adults were enlightened and touched. Moxie has made its first foray into its anticipated home in Encinitas. May the community be as inviting as the theatrical offering.
©2006 Patté Productions Inc.