THEATER | Joseph Scrimshaw’s “Fat Man Crying” brings the season’s sublimated emotions bubbling comically to the surface

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Joking Envelope’s Fat Man Crying, presented at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage, is refreshing in that it doesn’t attempt to solve the world’s problems in one Christmas night. It does, however, crush every childhood picture of Santa Claus you may have—unless the Santa at your local mall carried a bottle of Jameson and kept trying to get your mom in his lap.

While Skye and George Deal (Amy Schweickhardt and Ivey Award Winner Matt Rein) celebrate Christmas Eve, their festivities are interrupted by a depressed, blubbering Santa Claus (a hilarious Matt Erkel). Drunk and lonely, Santa comes close to ruining Christmas, and much more, for the Deals. Throw in the antics of the “anti-Santa” played by Joseph Scrimshaw—also the show’s writer and director—and this couple has a lot more than dinner with the in-laws to worry about.

The dialogue is fast-paced and witty. The punch lines are rapid-fire and Scrimshaw’s script makes you pay attention, not wanting to miss any of the smaller jokes hidden throughout. The two-act play runs about an hour and a half. With a sparse set and lack of technical tricks, Fat Man Crying relies heavily on dialogue and acting, but the actors and script are strong enough to pull it through.

fat man crying, playing through december 20 at the minneapolis theatre garage. for tickets ($20) and information, see jokingenvelope.com.

Like many holiday comedies, Fat Man Crying looks to remind us that although the holidays are full of cheer, they don’t erase the problems we face throughout the rest of the year. In fact, our biggest problems often surface during this time of well wishing. Although the play revolves around this dark truth, the absurdity of the situation and the well-written comic chaos doesn’t drag the audience down, but instead leaves the audience with hope that if there was ever a time to make peace with our problems, that time just might be Christmas.

Best of all, you can get your picture taken with Santa after the show for a mere five dollars. So if you haven’t had time to think of a witty Christmas card yet, Matt Erkel is at your service to pose in the emotional state of your choice. Naughty? Nice? Happy? Sad? Fat Man Crying, like Christmas itself, is all of the above.

This event 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 know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.