REVIEW: Trustus's A Christmas Miracle at The Richland Fashion Mall by Frank Thompson

“ Why is this important? Well, the only way to create unique theatrical experiences here in Columbia is to create them ourselves. Otherwise, everything being produced in town would be a restaging of an already produced work.” - -Trustus Artistic Director, Chad Henderson

 

 

While I will admit to loving the classics, even I sometimes want something newer than A Charlie Brown Christmas or Miracle On 34th Street. Let’s face it, there hasn’t been a new addition to the Holiday canon since A Christmas Story got adapted for the stage, and even then, we could all recite along with Ralphie and The Old Man. Well, leave it to the good folks at Trustus to present a fresh, hilarious, and oft-heartwarming story with A Christmas Miracle at The Richland Fashion Mall. Along with the “God bless us ev’ry one” moments, A Christmas Miracle At The Richland Fashion Mall contains just enough salt and vinegar for those of us who have seen too many saccharine-laden Hallmark movies or grade-school Christmas concerts.



Much of this salt and vinegar comes in the form of Mandy (Clayton P. King) and his partner (both business and personal), Laurel, played by the venerable Gerald Floyd, who celebrates his 72nd role with …Richland Fashion Mall. They bicker, they snipe at each other, and only occasionally does the act give way to a legitimate moment of tenderness. Their banter is flawless, and their stage chemistry undeniable. I do hope to see King and Floyd opposite each other soon.

Another excellent pairing by director Abigail McNeeley is that of Krista Forster as cynical Noelle, and Alyssa Velasquez as the optimist who thinks the mall can remain open. As with King and Floyd, they often argue, but their sense of friendship is undeniable. (Okay, weird and undeniable.) As much as they all deny it, this group of employees in a dying mall (kept open only by a bookstore/monolith “Farnes And Floble”) share a connection through their shabby, much-maligned workplace.

Preach Jacobs shines as the mall custodian/narrator, who may just be the wisest man in the place. His character doesn’t interact very much with the others, providing a sort of detached, Everyman’s perspective. Jacob’s soothing baritone and gentle nature immediately establish him as a voice of calm and reason.

Jared Rogers-Martin (Darrell), Allison Allgood (Player 1), and Samuel Traquina (Player 2) , all turn in excellent performances, but to say too much about them would be to ruin the Deus ex Machina ending. Just please take my word for it. These three manage to keep up with the rest of the cast, in smaller roles. EVERY performer onstage in …Richland Fashion Mall is a consummate professional.

The set, costumes, and production values were certainly up to Trustus’ high standards. As always, the popcorn is on hand, good cheer fills the room before and after the show, and there’s a feeling of a family assembling as patrons take their seats.

And the script, itself? Written by local comedy troupe, The Mothers, A Miracle at Richland Fashion Mall is full of my type of humour (irreverent and a little inappropriate), and I found it delightful. It does, however, toward the end, feel a bit like an SNL skit that went on too long. All ends well, but if it had so done twenty minutes sooner, it would’ve been perfect. A bit of editing here and there, and this show would be the ideal antidote for those in sugar-shock over the last five Rankin-Bass Claymation Christmas tales broadcast every ten minutes.

A Christmas Miracle At The Richland Fashion Mall is a hilarious, well-crafted, and oftentimes touching holiday treat. Like salted caramel, there’s just enough spice to cut through the sugar. Make it a part of your Yuletide this year! You might even want to follow Gerald Floyd’s wise advice:

“Less talkin’, more drinkin’! I wanna get my nog on!”

See the show. I promise you’ll have fun.

 Clayton King and Gerald Floyd - photo courtesy of Trustus Theatre

Clayton King and Gerald Floyd - photo courtesy of Trustus Theatre