On the first day of winter (meteorologically speaking) sitting in the stadium seating of the Bryant-Lake Bowl theater watching The Harty Boys Save Christmas, it felt like summer. More specifically, it felt like the Fringe Festival had come early this year (or again, actually). Maybe because the show is at BLB, probably because Joshua English Scrimshaw and Levi Weinhagen revived their characters from their 2009 Fringe show The Harty Boys in The Case of the Limping Platypus. Either way, it was what the opposite of Christmas in July is, and the weird entertainment that the Fringe Festival produces was alive and kickin’.
Comedy Suitcase’s The Harty Boys Save Christmas, now in its second season of production, follows the hopelessly misogynist Fred and Jack Harty (Scrimshaw and Weinhagen) as they solve the case of the crazy Santa lady (Karen Weiss Thompson) with the help of their equally clueless father (Ari Hoptman). Best (girl) friend forever Becca (Sulia Altenberg) and Mama Harty (Leslie Ball) are the targets for the boys’s superiority complexes, despite their logical thinking. Andy Kraft is the narrator with “expositional Tourette’s,” and every other fleeting character too. The play’s format is much like a typical mystery chapter book, complete with the foiling of the villain accompanied by long-winded monologue detailing her motives, and a climax that involves a slow-motion missile that is so ridiculous, but unfailingly funny.
The show is a mix of slapstick and satire, sprinkled (or packed, more like) with literary and social references. The latter of these two genres I enjoy immensely, just as much as I dislike the former. So my personal enjoyment of the show was a crapshoot. But luckily I was in a good mood. Kidding—the 60-minute show was everything you’d hope for from one-of-the-better Fringe shows (funny and original with succinct social commentary wrapped in a good storyline). The slapstick humor, if this is even possible, is restrained enough that it’s tolerable, but still prevalent for the eager-to-laugh kids in the audience. It really is, as the show claims to be, “for kids and adults alike!” I liked it enough that I’d see the duo’s New Year’s Eve show Baby New Year’s Time Traveling Diaper Party.
For as much as I adore Bryant-Lake Bowl for its relaxed atmosphere, I think The Harty Boys would fare better in another house—somewhere like Theatre in the Round. Anywhere, really, where the person to my left isn’t going to be snoring with his shoes off and feet propped on the wooden ledge, and the people in the row in front of me won’t be climbing through the metal guardrails to escape mid-scene. The show, to its credit, plays off the not-so-ideal setting and incorporates its faults into the script, and the characters happily ignore the fidgety audience members. They make do, and have a fun time doing it, too.
|This production is featured in the Daily Planet’s complete guide to holiday theater. Throughout the holiday season, the guide will be updated with links to new Daily Planet reviews—so you’ll know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.|
This production can be seen using discount vouchers from the Daily Planet’s Theater All Year program—six vouchers for just $99.
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Correction: This review originally stated that Matt Rein plays the role of the narrator; in fact, that role is played by Andy Kraft. Also, Karen Weiss Thompson was erroneously credited as “Morgan Karen Weiss Thomspon.”