The Christmas Present/written and directed by Guy Picot/Sacred Fools Theatre/through December 23
It's indeed a pleasure to see some fresh, gifted writing as in Guy Picot's The Christmas Present, in which he takes a familiar theme, that of loneliness/bitterness at holiday time, and puts it in a new unexpected context. Colin (Troy Blendell) may be your average UK divorced businessman, but his daydreams are hardly normal, bordering on the psychotic/demonic side. Depressed over his failed relationships with women and with life in general, his patient, friendly- seeming manner conceals the mind of a serial killer. Enter two women Holly (Sasha Higgins) and Debbie (Mandi Moss), different as night and day, into a 36-hour call-girl for Christmas scenario. The way Picot lays it out at the top it's difficult to determine whether Holly or Debbie is the actual prostitute who calls herself Salome. In a rapid succession of scenes the two girls alternate Salome, leaving one to question if we are seeing two different time frames. Higgins turns up later as a chambermaid, rattling Colin's brain, and so whether the action that transpired in Act I with her as the call-girl is real or fantasized is to be determined. Holly was sweet, the perfect mate, whereas Debbie is plain, a single mom who enjoys belaboring her plight and creating mayhem for Colin. At least, in the beginning. They gradually warm to each other, eating bonbons and listening to carols on the tele, but neither one really wants to be there. Debbie only needs the money; Colin is stuck with someone who is really not his type.
There is tremendous humor sprinkled throughout the play, and Colin's erratic behavior comes off as quite funny at times, as he grimaces over the tediousness of it all. It's the element of surprise that sustains interest in his character. We keep waiting for him to make a move in the direction of his plan, but... What ultimately does come to pass is rewarding and sweet, fulfilling the true message of Christmas. Blendell is a delight as Colin, resourcefully alternating energetic and muddled moods depending on the moment. Higgins is beautifully beguiling as Holly, but unfortunately we do not see enough of her. It is Moss as Debbie that truly has the finest hour in the play weighing the conflicts at hand and adding a genuine human touch as she caringly handles Colin. How the play ends is a nice surprise, leaving one to think, as I'm sure Picot intended, that if just one person cares, it can make a difference.
Picot the director keeps the action moving at a fine pace. Tifanie McQueen keeps set and costuming very simple. Labeled a dark British comedy, The Christmas Present is a refreshing change of pace from a multitude of varying Christmas Carols out there.