Fulgham ‘Christmas’ comes to Carmel

By John Lyle Belden

Poinsettias are immortal.

Also, treasures and saints come in unexpected forms; cherished traditions can include a bad pageant or enthusiastic bell-ringer; there’s nothing like a well-stocked fridge; and love can bring anyone together. These lessons and more are brought to us by Robert Fulgham, author of the best-seller about life-lessons from kindergarten, in “Uh-Oh, Here Comes Christmas!” presented by Carmel Community Players, directed by Kate Hinman.

Aptly-named Joy Ried joins new and familiar faces Tonya Rave, Tom Riddle, Kevin Shadle, and Matt Trgovac as they work through 14 scenes and skits – including a recurring bit about a certain red-leafed plant. The audience, in turn, gets a full-body workout, focused on both the heartstrings and funny bone.

Fulghum’s simple yet deep essays come alive in able hands – with an extra shout-out to assistant stagehand Mitchell Ried – for a must-see holiday treat.

The crew also includes stage manager and assistant director Jeremy Ried, stagehand Chrysa Keenon, and Lori Raffel on lights and sound.

Four performances remain: Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2:30 p.m. (Dec. 15-18) at The Cat, 254 Veterans Way in downtown Carmel (just south of the Main Street arts district). Get info and tickets at CarmelPlayers.org.

Soured friendship flavors ‘Suite’ farce

By John Lyle Belden

A Hollywood star-studded 1940s benefit for the war effort is the backdrop of the comedy “Suite Surrender,” on stage through Feb. 26 at Carmel Community Players.

Claudia McFadden (Georgeanna Teipen) headlines the big show at the Palm Beach Royale Hotel, but her former friend and hated rival, Athena Sinclair (Jill O’Malia) is on the bill as well. Fortunately, hotel manager Mr. Dunlap (Sydney Loomis) has them booked in suites on opposite sides of the building. Unfortunately, they both feel entitled to the Presidential Suite, and make themselves at home in its east and west bedrooms.

It is up to Dunlap, Claudia’s assistant Pippet (Thom Johnson) and Athena’s assistant Murphy (Addison D. Ahrendts) to keep the divas from even seeing one another, lest the sparks fly hotter than the fires started by rowdy shore-leave sailors in the downstairs lobby. Caught in the middle are hapless bellhops Otis (Colton Martin) and Francis (Steve Jerk), local socialite and event organizer Mrs. Osgood (Kate Hinman), and nosy journalist Dora Del Rio (Marjorie Worell).

Naturally, this all results in one hilarious farce, with goofy misunderstandings, frantic wild takes and lots of well-timed physical humor. Loomis is a master of manic mannerisms. Johnson’s minion-under-pressure shtick works perfectly. Teipen and O’Malia practically purr in their cattiness. Worell is literally whacked like a tennis ball to great effect. Hinmon hits the right comic notes, but don’t let her sing. Martin and Jerk recall the great pratfalling comics of the era. Ahrendts adds a touch of romance while getting in a few funny moments herself. And the biggest trooper of them all is little dog Sergio as Claudia’s Mr. Boodles.

As the hijinks work their way to the inevitable happy ending, watch for the twist, with its bit of wry commentary on show business.

Find CCP at 14299 Clay Terrace Boulevard, north of downtown Carmel. Call 317-815-9387 or visit carmelplayers.org.

John L. Belden is also Associate Editor and A&E editor of The Eagle (formerly The Word), the Indianapolis-based Midwest LGBTQ news source, which has a brief version of this and other theatre reviews.