Matt Orme & Tyler Madden in St. Nickaklaus and The Hanukkah Christmas. Photo courtesy of Bunbury Theatre.
St. Nickaklaus and The Hanukkah Christmas
Written by Juergen K. Tossmann
Reviewed by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
What does a family do when their beloved father starts showing signs of dementia? Do you take him in and try to keep him comfortable or do you send him to an assisted living facility where experienced personnel will be there to take care of him? It’s the question at the heart of Juergen Tossmann’s latest play St. Nickaklaus and The Hanukkah Christmas.
As the lights come up, Klaus (Matt Orme) sits in his wheelchair, watching and giggling at the television. He points at the screen and asks, “Who is that actor?” His adopted son Fritz (Tyler Madden) tells him, “It’s you, Pop.” Klaus replies, “Did you know that I was an actor?” It is clear on Fritz’s face that he has answered this question more times than he can count. As he busies himself in getting his smart and fashionable living room ready for Hanukkah celebrations, Fritz continues to entertain Klaus’ rambling barrage of questions. With no advanced warning, Klaus snaps back to a steel-trap memory with clarity and understanding, even if still a bit cantankerous and overbearing. Such is the daily struggle for father and son.
Daughter Anna (Rebecca Henderson) and her hippie husband Frank (Juergen Tossmann) arrive to celebrate the holiday with Klaus and Fritz. As Klaus continues to fade in and out of the present and even referencing Fritz as his deceased brother Hans, it is clear that the time has come for a difficult decision about their father.
While the siblings go off to the other room to talk about the future of their father, Klaus and Frank enjoy some time together, even being a bit naughty and nibbling on some Limburger cheese. It is within these conversations that we learn more about the family’s past, including some of the tales that surround Klaus’ deceased wife, Margie.
During a round of schnapps to toast the memory and love of the departed Margie the family discovers that most of their hidden secrets were indeed known truths. In the end, the family becomes closer and Klaus’ future is in capable hands.
Ms. Henderson, your portrayal of Anna seemed too timid for what I deciphered the role to be: a woman who does what she wants without the approval of others. The character seemed too scattered and not sure of herself when it felt to me that Anna could be scrappy. After all, she married Frank, which is uncharacteristic of her stylized character.
Tyler Madden’s Fritz was a great balance of loyal son and brother but also a frazzled caregiver. He treated all of the scenes as if he had been part of similar real-life scenarios. Juergen Tossmann’s Frank was a hoot. While donning a Santa hat that had a marijuana leaf on it, he brought whimsy into a serious family situation. While the character of Frank seemed to be over the top at times, it fit more than hindered the flow of the show. And your made up Shakespeare is witty!
Louisville has been very fortunate to have Matt Orme display his craft for decades now, and he seems quite at home on the Bunbury Theatre stage. His depiction of Klaus was both heartbreaking and revelatory, making no apologies for what he was and what he is becoming. When he shouts, “An actor has to have passion”, his booming voice hovers over the audience like a whispering wind.
Bob Bush is one of the best scenic designers in Louisville theater, and he and his props person, Hannah Greene, knocked it out of the park with this modern living room design. With a lighted Christmas tree featuring a Star of David as a topper and a menorah on the mantelpiece, one had a feeling you could be in a swanky downtown apartment celebrating the occasion.
While I enjoyed the music that preceded the performance, with a mix of Christmas and a smattering of Hanukkah songs, I felt the intermission could have used the same mix instead of the adult alternative that was used.
If you’d like even more Holiday cheer to celebrate the Holidays, come down to Bunbury Theatre, take a chance on the holiday gift basket raffle, grab a drink, and sit down to the story of the actor who starred in a movie that made no sense, St. Nickaklaus and the Hanukkah Christmas and his family.
St. Nickaklaus and The Hanukkah Christmas
December 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 & 16 @ 7:30pm
December 3, 10 & 17 @ 2:00
At The Henry Clay Theatre
604 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40203
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.