The best humor is always that which connects with tragedy and the best use of religious myths, such as the birth of Jesus, is when one can apply the lessons of the Bible to our everyday lives. Seattle Public Theatre’s Production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” delivers exquisitely on both humor and moral lessons.
Directed by Shana Bestock, the story tells the story of how a lumpenproletarian family of outcasts, the Herdmans, crash Sunday school for the treats, and use Mafia style tactics to snag all the good roles in the upcoming Christmas Pageant from all the clean-cut kids from respectable families. In the end though, the respectable kids learn compassion and acceptance of children they hate and fear, something very difficult to do in life. The heathen Herdmans are responsible for some hilarity of the religious variety. They know nothing about the story of Christmas and question all the assumptions with their anti-social cynical values. Garrison Keillor meets Groucho Marx is how to describe the humor.
The exposition of the play was creative, funny and highly effective, several of the church-going girls talk to the audiences about what a horrible family the Herdmans are-and there are six of them. As a result, the audience was engaged immediately in the conflict and dying to meet these holy terrors.
The costumes were simple yet highly effective, all the “respectable” girls wore skirts and jumpers-all the Herdmans were dressed in black with provocative T-shirts or hoodies. One of the younger Herdmans, Gladys, stole the show as the angel who announces the birth of Christ. The contrast between the deep reverence we all feel about Christmas pageants and her interpretation of the angel as some sort of superhero, was right on the money. A lot of credit should go to the director because this play moved along rapidly and there was not a weak performance by any of the child-actors.
The director of the pageant Grace, played by Candace Vance, was exceptionally good, funny but loving, loving yet bewildered by the Herdmans Along with the rest of the cast, she managed to communicate that panic most parents feel before Christmas about however they are going to get the whole thing together. Unlike many Christmas pageants which are too syrupy for adults or too risque for children, this one appeals to all ages.
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson Seattle Public Theatre, at the Bathhouse, directed by Shana Bestock. 7312 W. Greenlake Dr. N. Seattle, WA 98103 Dec 9-24, (206) 524-1300 www.seattlepublictheatre.org