Adventure Theatre’s holiday offering, A Lump of Coal for Christmas, is as sweet as it is warm and will leave you feeling merry and bright.
Rufus (Kevin Grieco) is marooned at home with only his slacker-of-an-uncle, Otis (Eric Messner), who half-heartedly partakes in Rufus’ Christmas Eve traditions, including gifting the 12-year old a bedtime book. In this case the 900-page Don Quixote, which has no pictures! But, as Rufus reads, he becomes enraptured with the Knight’s adventures, willing them to life with his own drawings. Otis, in the meantime, heads out for some last-minute work, leaving Rufus alone and lonely on what should be the greatest night of the year.
But, across town, ta-da! A lump of coal (Erin Weaver) has sprung to life, bounding with ambition and an artistic itch. Lump embarks on a quest to find a destiny better than smoldering on a grill. Her journey takes her to the theatre, into the culinary arts, and through an art gallery, where she dreams of being as renowned as Picasso. But, at each stop, the patron—a director, a chef, and a curator (all played devilishly well by Judith Ingber)—shuns the Lump, crushing her dreams with unabashed dejection. Resigned to a slow-burn type of existence, Lump happens upon Uncle Otis, who offers her a place in Rufus’ stocking. She’s meant to be a sort of gag gift—a fulfilling of the old tradition to give naughty kids charcoal at Christmas time.
For Lump, this is the lowest job a coal like her could have.
But the joke is on Otis because this Lump of Coal becomes more to Rufus than all the presents in the world and, together, they unleash their imaginations. Making not just art but miracles. Christmas miracles. The best kind.
Weaver is a delightful Lump of Coal who will tap dance and aw-shucks her way right into your heart. She keeps the show pacing at break-neck speed with her quips and snappy, seemingly random, song and dance routines, which look very snazzy with her black-tie get-up and shaggy black mane. She’s the hearth in this theatrical house and is, simply a wonderful Lump of Coal (there’s a statement I never thought I’d make).
A LUMP OF COAL FOR CHRISTMAS
November 20 – December 31
Adventure Theatre MTC
Glen Echo Park
7300 MacArthur Blvd
Glen Echo, MD 20812
1 hour, no intermission
Messner’s Otis has the unenviable of task of being the sort-of bad guy to Grieco’s Rufus, who sincerely believes in the joy Christmas beholds. Alongside Weaver’s zany Lump and Ingber’s litany of dream destroyers, they seem rather tame, but provide a human heart to an otherwise wacky, way-out-there tale.
The set and music add just the right touch of Christmas magic. Coal‘s excellent set invokes a cold city street on Christmas Eve as well as a warm home bubbling with holiday anticipation. Projections—mostly of artistic paintings and Rufus’ own drawings—add depth and character. Storefront windows’ curtain rise to reveal puppet theatres that illustrate each art Lump finds interesting. Many classic carols (“Joy to the World”, “Jingle Bells”, and “I Saw Three Ships”) make an appearance and there is also a dash of snow and a mantel hung with stockings over a crackling flame.
Of course, this isn’t just a show about Christmas, but also a commentary on the importance that art can—and should—play in a child’s life as well as on how to define friendships based on mutual interest and understanding, not appearance or preconceived notions.
This message in itself is a miracle given the current state of the world, and both writer Norman Allen and director Holly Twyford infuse it, and so many other lessons, into a show that is both touching and funny for kids and adults.
A genuinely charming show with a heart of coal! And, a must-see for anyone who believes in miracles, Christmas and otherwise!
A Lump of Coal for Christmas by Norman Allen . Directed by Holly Twyford . Featuring Kevin Grieco, Eric Messner, Judith Ingber, Erin Weaver, Rachel Hynes, Elliott Kashner, and Sammy Strent .Assistant Director: Sara Tisdale . Costume Designer: Frank Labovitz . Set Designer: Deborah Wheatley . Lighting Designer: Jason Aufdem-Brinke . Projections Designer: Hannah Marsh . Sound Designer: Kenny Neal . Props Designer: Dre Moore . Scenic Charge: Sandi Reinhart . Master Electrician: Ryan Love . Stage Managers: Ellison Roberts and Taylor Kidd . Produced by Adventure Theatre MTC . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.