“Christmastown: A Holiday Noir” presented by Seattle Public Theater

When a buxom broad in black walks into Nick Holiday’s seedy detective office with an incriminating picture of Santa, well you know this isn’t your usual Christmas theatrical. But oh what fun it is!Nick

Think of the ’40s detective genre but brighten it up with some talk of mistletoe, Christmas trees and the appearance of an extremely tall Mrs. Claus, as well as a Tiny Tim who towers over the rest of the cast. Add a heap of one-liners and character names taken directly from traditional Christmas favorites—carols, popular songs, movies, and, of course, from “Twas the Night Before Christmas”—ones that Playwright Wayne Rawley has managed to slip in so seamlessly that each comes as a delightful surprise and provides the satisfaction of knowing “you got it.” Altogether it’s a Christmas treat unlike any other.

In some productions, the script is the outstanding element. In others, the acting is what really shines. And in some, the success is mainly attributable to the direction. Here it’s Director Kelly Kitchens who deserves the strongest kudos. She mines the script for every visual and verbal gag it can provide, hones the physical humor to a sharp edge, and moves this frothy delight along at a jolly, holly pace.

John Ulman as Nick Holiday gives us a little Humphrey Bogart mixed with a bit of Jimmy Stewart and Guy Noir. Amber Wolfe, the broad in black, and in various female roles can be both deliciously naughty and nice. Rhonda J. Soikowski and Brandon Felker show fine versatility as they play the ten other roles, swiftly moving from character to character.

Playwright Rawley must have spent inordinate hours selecting the quotes and character names that appear here, and they work so well that it doesn’t matter that the story is a little rough. This is the year for new and unexpected Christmas plays in Seattle, and this one is worth a visit.

Through Dec. 24 in repertory with “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” at The Bathhouse Theater, 7312 W. Greenlake Dr., N., Seattle, (206 524-1300 or www.seattlepublictheater.org)

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