Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Sarah Polizzi (six or seven months' pregnant) plays the all-grown-up Cindy-Lou Who, whom we last saw as a six-year-old in the famed animated 1966 Christmas special "How The Grinch Stole Christmas," based on a 1957 children's book by Theodor Seuss Geisel. Well, a lot has happened since then, andin rhyming Seussian coupletsshe explains it all for us, with lots of sadder-but-wiser wisecracks along the way. The wisecracks rhyme, too, except for a handful of times when your dirty mind really, really wants them to. The show is rated "M." For "Maniacal," I'm guessing.
Gary F. Bell directs the show, and it's a stage marriage made in heaven, with Ms. Polizzi as an expansive, cheerful presence almost all the way through, perfectly set against the script's, and Stray Dog Theatre's, natural sense of camp. Every wild comic impulse is brought to fruition, likely or notin spite of the occasional disappointment over the guests who never show up for her holiday party, or the events surrounding a grisly murder in her family's past, which she recounts in her little trailer home on the outskirts of Whoville, on this wintry night.
The play by Matthew Lombardo broaches the 100-minute mark, including a 20-minute intermission, and has been produced at many theaters since just 2018. (Another production is running now at Theatre Wit in Chicago through December, and two more are running in Maine.) Josh Smith is the scenic designer for Stray Dog Theatre, and his set is a marvel of kitsch, merrily illuminated, complete with a silvery foil tree, pink lighting for the pre-show mood, and a crooked, multi-jointed Whoville-style chimney vent angling off behind all of that.
There are a couple of songs, including a gentle singalong, in this former church. And the technical aspects of the production are immaculate. Comedy never gets the same credit as drama, but Ms. Polizzi is her own bundle of joy from the very first glimpse, and delightful at wry, modern humor too. But there may be some side-effects from seeing this one: walking my dog before bed, I could only think in Seussian rhyming couplets. It's a small price to pay, to be thinking that way. The meter is buried, in Who's Holiday, in satirical deliverythanks to Gary F. Bell, and Ms. Polizzi.
Who's Holiday runs through December 18, 2021, at the Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave., St. Louis MO. The equally wry and witty Sarajane Alverson is the standby performer, and reportedly may stand-in at least twice during the run. Seating is limited for social distancing. Masks are a must during the show, and reservations are required. For more information visit www.straydogtheatre.org