If you’re on the naughty list, I know just the kind of people you should be spending your time with. The writers and actors who buzz about the Centaur have put together an annual holiday show of monologues that will add sizzle to your swizzle. These are not your typical seasonal tales of rosy cheeked grandparents unless that red blush is post orgasmic. The only powder white snow that gets mentioned is the narcotic kind. When people hit the egg nog, they hit it hard. Who knew these actors and writers were such a twisted bunch?
To get everyone in the mood, the sultry Miss Sugarpuss (Holly Gauthier-Frankel) performed a burlesque. Granted, this is an audience whose familiarity with the art of the tease is probably more through a CBC Ideas episode than having a few cocktails at the Wiggle Room. Miss Sugarpuss is such a generous, fun performer that even if people were hesitant to shout out encouragement, they were smiling in appreciation and ready to be stimulated further.
Things kicked off with Leni Parker performing Marianne Ackerman’s Mankind. This boozy divorcée tale had a single mom find her Christmas Eve box of Black Magic chocolates interrupted by the arrival of an unexpected visitor at her front door. He’s got a beard and a grey head of hair and a red velvet suit with a black buckle belt. Any idea who it might be? He’s quite the hunka hunka burning love — and he can drunk dance too. Ackerman’s writing is full of zingy one-liners that hit their mark every time with Parker’s perfect timing. Somehow, Ackerman imbues the whole story with some reflections on reminiscence and memory without ever getting heavy on you.
The fabulous opener was followed by Luciana Bucheri’s more somber Feliz Navidad, with Nadia Verrucci performing. Verrucci has such a distinct character to the thing she does. Her movements are so precise, so sharp. Every movement of her face or body is captivating. Verrucci is a wonderful comedian as well and she was able to milk what could have otherwise been a bit of a downer for whatever humour was to be squeezed out. Feliz Navidad is about an actuary (well, a woman who analyzes statistics) having a riff with her lover in Brossard.
The last tale of the first act was The Baby Dyke and Santa’s Wife, written and told by Dayna McLeod. Oh. My. God. This was a riot. The year is 1995 and McLeod’s character is 23. She wears leather with buckles on it, and is into the older women. She finds herself in a bathroom getting busy with her boss’ wife. It’s like The Office meets David Sedaris.
The second act kept the energy super high. In Yvan Bienvenue’s Madame Butterfly, Bill Rowat came to the stage and announced, “Mine is quite small.” He had everyone’s attention immediately and there was no stopping him after that. The story ultimately focused on his 87 year old mother and a gift she gave herself. Rowat’s nervous, uncomfortable character, who balls his hands into fists, tugs on his jacket, and laughs nervously at his own jokes is not to be missed. Great story, great acting.
Do We Have a Mary? written and told by Stefanie Buxton was another well-coiled tale that had me tearing up. This one was set in 1980 and features a 14 year old in love with Jesus. And I don’t mean “love” in a pure Disney birds and bunnies kind of way. Buxton’s chance to manifest her feelings comes when her church’s annual pageant chooses her for a lead role in the nativity play. The delivery as well as the crazy details made this monologue painfully hilarious.
Things ended with Quimby, by Harry Standjofski, who also played guitar the whole evening. Quimby, in some ways, matched Ackerman’s piece in that it was so entertaining that the messages about family and the meaning of life slid into the story very quietly. In this one, Standjofski recounts the year in which his parents split up from the events of two Christmases in the “Waste Island”. There’s a great multi-person conversation that drips with unspoken tension.
All in all, this was a solid event and a great way to make the holiday a little more hot. Give someone you love an early Christmas gift of tickets, and if you’re celebrating Chanukah, this is the gift you can give tonight.
Urban Tales: An Erotic Christmas is at the Centaur Theatre (453 St Francis Xavier) until December 19. $16/18/22. Click HERE for tickets.