Victorian Christmas Cards-Uniquely Innovative Playwriting

Victoria Christmas Cards-As Plays

Latitude Theatre, one of Seattle’s newest theatres has also proved to be one of the most creative and innovative, with their second production Victorian Christmas Cards, at Theatre 4, at Seattle Center’s Center House. Six playwrights were each given a somewhat wacky Christmas card from the Victorian era, as a stimulus to write a short play using only minimal set pieces.

The result was six interesting, amusing plays and some high jinks in-between, during the breaks between the plays, as the sets were being moved around and the actors were presumably backstage changing.

The origin of Christmas cards in Anglo-Saxon countries originated in 1843 with an Englishman named Henry Cole, who despaired at having to write the customary “Christmas Letter” to all his numerous friends. So instead he had some cards printed up and just sent them instead. In 1875, Louis Prang, a Prussian immigrant with a printing shop in Boston, created the first Christmas card in the U.S. The custom keeps evolving.

Some of the Christmas cards used in Latitude’s creative process were “interesting,” that is to say extremely wacky, but always artistically beautiful. The highlights of the evening were Two Owls under a New Moon by Kate Danley, Directed by Hannah Lund and performed by Chelsey Sheppard and Skye Farrell. It drew inspiration from the nonsense poem the Owl and the Pussy Cat by Edward Lear.

Although the enragées might decide to find it in bad taste, Merry Christmas Lt. Payne by Henry S. Brown, is a spoof on British Colonialism and the British Army’s using troops from their colonies to expand their empire.

Directed by Rowan Gallagher, it has a brilliant cast of Chelsey Sheppard as the proverbial impertinent Irish private, whose sidekick Private Mondal, played by Ashutosh Borkar, is of course from the Indian subcontinent.

Of slightly high rank is Lance Corporal Khatri, played by Sumant Gupta, who spars with the very pukka Lieutenant Payne, played by David Elwyn, an excellent caricature of a British Army officer in the colonies.

The two pairs spar over what each other’s winter festivals are all about, there is a lot of humor and a lot of gentle mocking of British colonialism, as it takes place in what is now South Africa.

Harold’s Birthday party, by Scott Zenreich, starred Stav Hinenzon as Harold, a forest savvy hare, who was a super energetic actor and carried the show. Although the Christmas card showed owls and rabbits getting along nicely; Harold knows better than to trust owls, however nice they appear at his birthday party. Zenreich’s bouncy, robust performance was highly amusing.

The Bridge, although it has a fairly sad theme, was actually rather funny since it was full of humor involveing two dogs, who end up at a vet’s office, discussing the eternal issues of life and death. It was one of my favorites with Eugene Zabokritski as Pepper, an elderly dog, and David Elwyn as a young Paterfamilias. It was expertly written by Jay Cross and equally well directed by Jane Ryan.

In between each play, a team of Frogs, moved the set pieces in a choreographed manner to music. It was just as entertaining as the plays. This quirky addition was sheer delight.

Based on this production, Latitude Theatre it is a creative force in Seattle’s theatre scene. Don’t miss next week’s shows.

Victorian Christmas Cards. Latitude Theatre. TPS Theatre 4, Seattle Center Armory (Formerly Center House) 4th Floor, take the back Elevator. Seattle Center. December 13th, 14th, 15that 7:30pm and December 9th, 16th, 17th at 2:00pm. Discounts for TPS members.

Info & Tickets:

Difficult street parking, Take the monorail from Westlake,

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