Theater review: 'The Christmas Present' at Sacred Fools Theater
In art as in life, Christmas has its dark side. For every Scrooge and Grinch transfigured by the spirit of giving, somewhere a Raymond Carver character is shouting, “That’s the last Christmas you’ll ever ruin for us!” at her drunk husband.
Those who like their Christmases on the rocks, with bitters, will feel right at home at Sacred Fools Theater’s U.S. premiere of “The Christmas Present,” written and directed by Guy Picot.
The play is subtitled “a dark British comedy,” but even the most cynical American may find it longer on the dark and the British than the comedy. Although the tale of a borderline sociopath and the grouchy prostitute he’s hired to spend the holiday with him in a hideous hotel room — she’s his “present” —does provoke laughs, they’re closer to Nietzschean yelps of despair than Yuletide jollity.
Miserably divorced Colin (Troy Blendell) has hired “Salomé” primarily for companionship. Or so he explains to the lovely, accommodating woman (Sasha Higgins) who arrives after he has hidden a knife under the bed. This Salomé turns out to be a fantasy; a second knock heralds the actual prostitute (Mandi Moss), a belligerent harpy. Scenes of their squabbling alternate with tenderer, if creepier, imaginary interactions between Colin and the hooker of his dreams.
Blendell’s Colin is a deceptively average-looking “bloke” whose unctuous good humor keeps giving way to twitching rage. Higgins brings a quirky sweetness to her slight role. But the play doesn’t really come to life until the fiery Moss shows up in her sweatpants and starts laying waste to Colin’s delusions. Ultimately, for all its bile and threats, “The Christmas Present” pulls its punches, delivering not a bloodbath but its own darkly comic, very British Christmas miracle.
-- Margaret Gray
“The Christmas Present.” Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, L.A. See website for schedule. Ends Dec. 24. $15. Contact: www.SacredFools.org or (310) 281-8337. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Photo: Prostitute (Mandi Moss) and client (Troy Blendell) share post non-coital non-bliss in “The Christmas Present.” Credit: CM Gonzalez.