Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Truth About Santa


By Greg Kotis. Directed by John Clancy. The Kraine Theater. (CLOSED)

Greg Kotis' madcap yuletide romp gets mostly positive nods from reviewers. Chronicling the apocalyptic insanity unleashed when a drunken Everyman (played by Kotis himself) discovers that his wife (played by Kotis' real-life wife Ayun Halliday) has been cheating on him annually with Santa Claus and that Santa has in fact fathered their two children (played by Kotis and Halliday's real-life children Milo and India Kotis), the play is both a satire of the origins of the Christmas holiday and a family affair. The consensus seems to be the play is sloppy, light, weird and quite a bit of fun. (Full disclosure: I am friends with the Kotis/Halliday clan.)

(Winnie McCroy) The truth about The Truth About Santa is that it is an overflowing sack of madcap holiday cheer too good to miss...This fast-paced, campy romp shows the darker side of the Santa myth-including the fallout that comes after Mommy is caught kissing Santa Claus. With the help of the strange powers of Santa’s two illegitimate children, the North Pole goes from murderous mayhem to peace on earth, just in time for Christmas.

The New York Times A-
(Jason Zinoman) The Truth About Santa, a giddy, pleasingly sloppy downtown satire written by and starring Greg Kotis, is a holiday show for people sick of holiday shows. It stars Santa, but this isn’t the happy man at Macy’s. He doesn’t just slip down the chimney, bearing gifts. He also sleeps with your wife, smokes magic weed and chuckles “Ho ho ho” with a leer that suggests more than good cheer.

Tynan's Anger A-
(Ethan Stanislawski) It would be a shame to overlook The Truth About Santa, a play that has every right to become the Christmas Carol (or Mahabharata) for weird theater geeks across the world. Personally, I hope to see The Truth About Santa every winter solstice for years to come, preferably with a more polished script and production. If Seinfeld a similarly quirky, culturally-specific enterprise, can find a place for Festivus for a universal audience, The Truth About Santa can find a place for classic religious sociology in the mainstream world. You just have to believe.

Show Showdown A-
(David Bell) Christmas annoy the fuck out of you? Yeah, me too. Which is why I so wholly connected with this slappy, mean-spirited, Santa-bashing stocking-stuffer of a musical downtown at the Kraine...The story is simple and dumb and fun...Production-wise this is a pretty tight package. The pace is speedy, the sets/costumes are thrown together and fabulously crappy and the cast is hilarious.

That Sounds Cool B+
(Aaron Riccio) Despite the positively berserk direction from John Clancy, we--or at least I--find it difficult to formally "review" The Truth About Santa. That's because somewhere in my stocking of a heart, there's a lump of coal shrieking out a warning about the high-school staging, the over-the-top acting, and the not-always-justified mania...It's one thing to send up a style, it's another to indulge it and get lost within. And yet, here's why you must see The Truth About Santa. It is one of the most sincere screwball comedies to hit the stage in some time, thanks in part to the endearing Trachtenburg effect: Greg Kotis has brought his family and friends together to put up this show, and things that are wholly indulgent now seem cheery and delightful.

Theatermania B
(Adam R. Perlman) The Truth About Santa, now at the Kraine Theatre, is what you might call an alternative holiday show. That's not to say it skimps on the seasonal cheer, but its yule tidings are of a decidedly dark and deranged variety. Fortunately, director John Clancy ensures it's all amiable enough to coast along pleasantly for chunks of its 60-minute running time... In the end, it's all a bit like eggnog -- sweet, spiced, and sloshing around awkwardly. But in the right dose, it gives you a soothing holiday buzz.

CurtainUp B
(Julia Furay) A cheerfully dark commentary on the massive annual bonanza we all know and love...Antics abound....Director John Clancy has capitalized on the show's homespun, homemade feel with cardboard cutouts for props and scenery and even some tentative moments of audience participation. However, Kotis's script could use some tweaking. The songs (mostly performed by the troubadour elves) are witty and appealing, but the story takes so many goofy twists and turns that it feels more amateurish than necessary...The flaws notwithstanding, this is a creative and appealing take on Christmas, a welcome change from all the saccharine sentiment that's so prevalent this time of year.

Backstage C+
(Andy Propst) In this season that celebrates hearth and home, a show that features not only the author but also his wife and kids (and their dog) grandly upholds the tradition that the family that plays together stays together. Unfortunately, goodwill is likely to carry audiences only so far with this shrill holiday-time satire, directed with manic intensity by John Clancy, about the meaning of the season.

(Diane Snyder) SIlly and strident... In between amusing elf-sung ditties, a convoluted plot zips the family to the north pole, where we learn about bad Santa’s sins. Are we headed for an apocalypse? Should this whole affair have been limited to an audience of Kotis’s family and friends?

EDGE A 13; NYT A- 12; Show Showdown A- 12; TA A- 12; That Sounds Cool B+ 11; TM B 10; Curtain Up B 10; Backstage C+ 8; TONY D+ 5; TOTAL: 93 / 9 = 10.3 (B)

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