When Osseo’s Yellow Tree Theatre opened in 2008, a last-minute loss of rights to a different holiday play resulted in co-founder Jessica Lind writing the last-minute holiday play Miracle on Christmas Lake. The production is now in it’s third year, and from the way the packed house enjoyed the latest performance of Miracle, it’s likely to remain a holiday staple.
Miracle tells the tale of Colin and Tess. Colin was a soap opera actor in New York City, but he and Tess have just moved back to Colin’s small hometown of Christmas Lake. Tess is unhappy living in a small town and she wants to move back to New York City. Colin’s father owned and operated the local playhouse and, upon his recent death, left it to Colin. Colin has plans to present It’s a Wonderful Life for the theater’s holiday production when, 24 hours before the show was to open, he’s notified that his rights to produce the production have been revoked. This is a double blow to Colin because he was hoping to not only launch his theatre with this production, but also to obtain a large donation from the town’s local rich person, Mrs. Burlington, so that he can keep the theater afloat.
|miracle on christmas lake, presented through january 2 at yellow tree theatre. for tickets ($17-$20) and information, see yellowtreetheatre.com.|
Desperate, Colin obtains the assistance of Martha (who had originally been cast in Wonderful Life as the Fourth Townsperson) and Neil (the local piano tuner) to stay all night at the theater to come up with a new play. Colin’s original plan to create a whole new play quickly falls apart and Tess suggests they do the Christmas script from the soap opera that Colin was on last year. One advantage to this plan is that this soap opera is Mrs. Burlington’s favorite show and, ultimately, Mrs. Burlington ends up cast in the female lead.
The beginning of Miracle is sluggish, with just the occasional lutefisk joke and Martha’s weird facial expressions for humor. But once Colin seizes upon the soap opera concept, the action in the play takes off, reminding me of the madcap humor found in Michael Frayn’s Noises Off. In the end, the show is a success, Mrs. Burlington comes through with the large donation, Martha’s lizard is found, and Tess starts enjoying life in a small town.
Although the entire cast is strong, both Jessie Rae Rayle as Martha and Diana Wilde as Mrs. Burlington are standouts. Rayle’s strange facial expressions are initially very annoying but once Martha becomes a fully-developed character, she is one of the more enjoyable characters to watch. Rayle’s antics repeatedly reminded me of the sketch work that Carol Burnett used to do. Wilde’s portrayal of Mrs. Burlington is a stereotypical portrayal of a small town rich person with a sordid past, but Wilde throws herself into the role with a passion and carries it off well.
Much of the humor depends upon the facial expressions of certain characters and, since I was sitting to the side, I did not always see these expressions. Thus, I felt left out while the audience in the middle was roaring with laughter and I could only wonder why. I also wished the play within the play had gone on longer since it was reaching a frenzy when it abruptly ended.
For those seeking a light-hearted holiday fare that provides an amusing evening of laughter for both young and old alike, I recommend Miracle. Because the theater has general admission seating, go early so you can sit in the center seats.
|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.|