Theater note: Everyone laughs at a “Fat Man Crying”

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Your mother told you: Santa sees everything. All year long, he’s got one eye on you and one eye double-checking that consequential list. He knows if you’ve been naughty, and he knows if you’ve been nice…and if you’ve been naughty, he knows just how naughty you’ve been. Isn’t that a little creepy? So asks writer/producer/director/actor Joseph Scrimshaw in Fat Man Crying, his amusing new play at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage.

The play concerns George (Scrimshaw) and Skye (Alayne Hopkins), a married couple who are enjoying some Christmas Eve canoodling when they are startled by a fat man in a red suit. For reasons that only later become apparent, Santa Claus (Tim Uren) has come seeking the couple’s aid in restoring his lost “Santa magic.” Before long, Claus is hitting the sauce and letting slip a hint or two about who’s been bad and who’s been good. In time Santa recovers his magic, but at the expense of a little marital bliss between George and Skye.

Fat Man Crying, a play written and directed by Joseph Scrimshaw, presented at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage through December 23. For tickets ($20), call (800) 838-3006 or see josephscrimshaw.com.

Scrimshaw, whose Macbeth’s Awesome Scottish Castle Party was the top-selling show at this year’s Fringe Festival, knows how to please a crowd. His characters’ dialogue maintains the percolating tempo of a sitcom, delivering laugh lines like toys dropping off a North Pole conveyer belt. One of the principal props is a battery-powered singing rabbi such as one might find at an Uptown gift shop, and that comfortably quirky, gently irreverent tone is characteristic of the entire production.

Scrimshaw, Hopkins, and Uren carry the play’s first half—with humorously tense back-and-forth between Scrimshaw and Hopkins as Uren boozes it up and proffers his lap—but once Joshua Scrimshaw (Joseph’s real-life brother) comes loping on stage in the second half, the play is his. As an unkempt slacker with absolutely nothing the least bit special about him (so says Santa Claus himself), Joshua delivers his punch lines in a blithe deadpan that contrasts with Joseph’s frustrated screams. When the two of them face off in matching striped pajamas, the theatergoer may be put in mind of a certain odd couple residing at 123 Sesame Street.

Fat Man Crying is a light and enjoyable holiday confection for adults. It goes down easy, and it won’t leave you feeling guilty…unless Santa knows something that your spouse doesn’t.

Jay Gabler (jay@tcdailyplanet.net) writes on culture and the arts. He is assistant editor of the TC Daily Planet.

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