Review: The Christmas Spirit - a different kind of comedy

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Death (Phillip Keiman) and Beth Dowling (Debra Rich) have a romantic moment.
Photo courtesy The Phoenix Theatre

By Frederick Stroppel
Directed by Keith Dahlgren
The Phoenix Theatre
December 2 - 18, 2016

Review by Doug Gochanour

Who knew that Death could be so Lively.

The Phoenix Theatre is presenting a Holiday offering, which is sort of like a humorous spin-off approach to the classic, Death Takes a Holiday. Stroppel’s play might trigger some reflection of our own personal relationship experiences, and may suggest an opportunity for some tweaking. It juxtaposes death with life, and comedy with tragedy.

Julia Dowling has a surprise Visitor in her Long Island home. Melanie Calderwood gives a superb performance as Julia, capturing all the emotions of someone facing her circumstances. Melanie always delivers great humorous lines with perfection.

Death has come for Julia. She is able to persuade the Visitor to allow her one final day to enjoy Christmas with her loved ones. Death is even invited to attend the celebration. The Visitor masquerades as human, presumably so he can fit right in. What can possibly go wrong with that?

Phillip Keiman is outstanding as the Visitor. His interactions with other party guests make Death become the Life of the party. Imagine that.

Complications certainly do arise. Death brings along a dead man. Carlos Martinez is wonderful in the role of Matthew Harris, who had just committed suicide. Matthew is suspended in limbo. Will he have second thoughts?

Death even participates in some romance. Can Death feel love for one who is living?

Debra Rich is fantastic in her role as Beth Dowling. Beth finds herself unwittingly flirting with Death. Will this attraction spiral out of control? What will happen to the anger she has brought with her to the party?

The entire cast draws the audience into the family gathering for Christmas day. They portray the farcical diversity of individuals in attendance, and the complicating factors that come with family relationships. They offer comedy at its best, even as the serious nature of death is examined.

Are you dying to enjoy a different kind of comedy? Make it a point to go to the Phoenix Theatre for this most unusual, yet enjoyable play.

You will be glad you did.

Phoenix Theatre, 9673 Firdale Ave, Edmonds, 206-533-2000.


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