By Dana Casadei
One of the first scenes of Go Comedy! Improv Theater’s “North by North Pole” has Jen Hansen as a Meijer greeter, saying “Merry Christmas” to the customers. As anyone who has worked in retail knows, the debate of “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” can be a bitter battle with customers and bosses, one the audience gets to witness from the backlash Hansen receives no matter what she says. This scene, which is about as long as a SNL sketch, is one of the many, and I do mean many, moments that tell true stories of the holidays. No magic, no sparkles, just the crazy.
The cast of six and directors P.J. Jacokes and Tommy LeRoy have written one of the most honest things I’ve ever seen. OK, there are a few scenes that we as humans can’t relate to, such as when they play some very eager Christmas trees in a lot, but the rest are very real.
Each scene depicts one of the many aspects of the holidays, ranging from some friendly neighborhood decorating competition to Black Friday shopping, to one of my favorite moments of the night: a group of co-workers planning the holiday Christmas party. It helps that each scene is absolutely hilarious, leaving me with aching sides.
Scene length ranges from very short, about 30 seconds, to a few minutes, and there are a lot of scenes in the 90 minutes; it helps that there isn’t an intermission.
The group of six works really well off each other, mixing it up with almost every combination possible, and they all work, even though the ones that have all six were my favorite.
One scene that sticks out is the live nativity scene. For starters, there’s Michelle Giorlando as a goat who desires a back-story and talks about how her “character” would probably be jealous of Baby Jesus. Then there’s slutty Mary (Christa Coulter, a standout throughout the evening); the creepiest Joseph (Chris DiAngelo) you’ll ever meet; a lone wise man (Hansen); Baby Jesus (Bryan Lark), whose outfit I won’t spoil; and an Angel (Billy Crawford, another notable standout), who isn’t the brightest blub in the bunch. This is possibly the most messed up nativity scene you will ever see, and it is fabulous.
As far as costumes go, the women all wear black dresses while the men wear black pants, button-up shirts and ties, making it easy to add layers for the next scene. The stage is black, with chairs coming and going, and there are no props, making you use – say it with me – your imagination. This is where LeRoy must be mentioned again. As the technical director, the sounds he adds, when say a glass breaks, make it seem as if the items are actually there, adding another layer to the production.
In the last scene of “North By North Pole,” Coulter and Crawford play a couple going through the motions of Christmas, all done with only facial expressions and background music, displaying the haphazardness that is this time of year. This scene ties together many of the elements from previous moments throughout, which is something done nicely, and at times surprisingly, throughout the show. But the most important part of this last scene is the very end, when both are home about to fall asleep and Coulter says “Merry Christmas” to Crawford, after going all day without saying it. It’s a simple moment, but an important one, showing how sometimes we get so caught up in the season that we forget to say it to the most important people in our lives.
So savor the quiet moments this year with those you love; the crazy will be back next year.
‘North by North Pole’
Go Comedy! Improv Theater, 261 East Nine Mile Road, Ferndale. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through Dec. 22. 90 minutes; no intermission. $15. http://www.gocomedy.net