The Christmas Tree, on stage in Toronto, is a “sweet way to start off the holidays”
Lately, it’s been hard for me to get into the holiday spirit. Maybe the snowless streets make me forget that it’s even December. Maybe it’s that I have a bitter heart that can’t be swayed by eggnog and silver bells. I’m not too sure what it is, but I still decided to take a chance on seeing The Christmas Tree at the Red Sandcastle Theatre.
My heart didn’t grow a few sizes today, but it was shockingly warmed by the music and merriment provided by Baby Gumm Productions.
First the audience was treated to Myke Mazzei, who played guitar and sung Christmas carols. Audience members sang along, bobbed their heads, and some even let out their inner Mariah Careys. The musical performance was a pleasant surprise. Within minutes, I had been eased into the holiday spirit.
The small stage was set by Henry Keeler to look like an empty parking lot. Pine needles littered the floor. Christmas lights were strung up in the background. The only items on stage were an empty bench and one lush pine tree. I thought it was clever to keep the decoration low-key so that my attention stuck to the two cast-members. The show is really about them, and of course, that one unlucky Christmas tree.
The two characters begin the play by inspecting the only Christmas tree in the lot with the looks of professional judges. They poke, prod, and sniff the needles. The two of them are nameless at this point. They’re complete strangers. The only thing we know about these two characters is that they both really want that tree.
Marc R. Bondy plays the typical nice guy, claiming he doesn’t care about winning a fight, and then immediately taking his charitable statements back a second later. He pretends to want things to be fair, but if the result isn’t in his favour, he changes his mind. Bondy’s funny in a TV-dad kind of way, managing to push buttons while putting on an innocent face.
Ramona Milano plays a straightforward woman who’s too impatient for formalities. She wants the tree. She has places to go. If she can have it, she’ll take it. Her snark is just as funny as Marc R. Bondy’s passive aggressive ploys, even if it’s not as fitting for the festive spirit. Her sharp tongue gets her labeled as “abrasive” by her opponent, but in my opinion, the more Milano talked, the more I liked her.
Milano and Bondy argue about who deserves the tree more, making up sentimental reasons to win ownership of the tree. They both catch each other in their lies, only to try again with the promise that this time they’re definitely telling the truth. The tall tales are punctuated with bits of genuine vulnerability when the truth is revealed.
The Christmas Tree, written by Norm Foster and directed by Darren Stewart-Jones, is a short and sweet play. The plot doesn’t really go anywhere, but Marc R. Bondy and Ramona Milano are so entertaining that I didn’t care that I had just watched two pathological liars flirt for an hour. It’s a weird premise, but it’s charming and a good laugh. It was a really sweet way to start off the holidays.
- The Christmas Tree is no longer running, but played December 12 and 13 at the Red Sandcastle Theatre.
- Please check out Baby Gumm Productions and the Red Sandcastle Theatre for upcoming shows.
Photography Credit: Baby Gumm Productions (from left: Ramona Milano, Marc Bondy)