Penumbra's production of Langston Hughes's Black Nativity is considerably more proficient. Set in a barn in turn-of-the-century Missouri, it's mostly an excuse for T. Mychael Rambo, Joe Carter, and their talented cohorts to sing some gorgeous gospel carols while parading around in colorful costumes. That's excepting a brief spell in the middle of the pageant when Joseph takes center stage with an ostrich feather headdress and performs athletic jumping jacks while 6-foot-tall African masks fly down like Spinal Tap's Stonehenge. Penumbra makes its play for the lucrative Kwaanza market?
Well, let me tell you that by the time Kwaanza rolls around each year, Santa Dearest is getting bedsores from hibernating on the couch, four days into a NyQuil bender. He has a dislocated right patella that's going to need some orthoscopic attention; he walks with a fortified candy cane.
Still, when he makes the odd department store appearance Santa insists that the kids sit on the right leg, never on the left. It's an "authority issue," the way he tells it. Carson kept the guests on his right, Leno does it, Letterman too. So Santa does it. Never mind the risks to a man in his condition. There is no arguing.
Just as obstinate and status-conscious is Mr. Warner, the autocratic widower and 1880s millionaire who drains the joy from his Summit Avenue mansion in The Great American History Theatre's 10th anniversary production of A Servant's Christmas. Monica, a Chicago girl working to attend Macalester College, shows up to rescue Warner's children and her fellow domestics from emotional frigidity. Oh, and she's secretly packing...
a menorah. It's sort of like The Sound of Music without the music.
I haven't told anyone yet, but on December 26, I'm thinking of telling Santa where he can put that yule log for good. I'm leaving him for another man--treasured local actor and playwright Kevin Kling. The divorce settlement will be messy--what I'll do with half the world's toys I cannot fathom now. But after seeing Kling's one-man Jungle Theater show, Fear and Loving in Minneapolis, I know I must make a clean break. Kling's stories--mostly unrelated to Christmas--are funny, eloquent, and positively riveting. Listening to his account of prematurely broken gifts and mythically long car hauls, I felt that seasonal je ne sais quoi, a certain tingling warmth across my ample Claus bosom. Although it may have been the mulled wine and hot flashes talking. I'll tell you one thing: that Kling man spins so much yarn I could knit him a dozen pairs of booties and still have enough left over for mittens. CP
See Bright Lights for further information on the productions mentioned above.