Roz Howlett, Daisy Gray, Lauren Toste Martos, & Michael Schmid in Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus. Photo: HAC
Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus
By Jamie Gorski
Directed by David Despain
A review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2022 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
We live in a complicated world. Social struggles, wars, hatred, and bigotry…the list goes on and on. Sometimes when you think about it, it can get pretty scary and overwhelming. In 1893, a little girl wrote a letter to a newspaper and asked a simple question: Is Santa Clause real? This little question represented big concepts of faith and has since become a story of overcoming doubt and anxiety. Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus is a tender fable of how good deeds and holding tight to your beliefs matter in a cold world.
A story about a girl sending a letter to a newspaper relishes nostalgia. Even though it dates from before World War I or the Great Depression, the message still resonates in modern times of social media and “fake news.” It is most certainly a story we need right now regardless of the Holiday season. Lauren Toste Martos is an inquisitive Virginia. She is a curious and smart character whose doubts appear to be far larger than she can realize. Luckily, her inquiry about whether Santa is real is never proven right. Her parents (Roz Howlett and Michael Schmid) are steadfast in urging Virginia to believe.
Motivated to find out the truth about Santa once and for all, Virginia sends a letter to the New York Sun. Tyisha Clemmons plays Francis Church, the news writer who is overcoming her own doubts when the letter comes her way. Clemmons brings empathy and compassion, providing a nice contrast for the younger performers’ questioning of jolly old Saint Nick.
Virginia is exposed to some harsh realities which cause her to question. Martos continues to convey doe-eyed innocence yet to be tarnished by the world around her as she sees friends struggle with hunger, illness, and parents who lose their jobs. As Virginia’s best friend Mary Lou, Alexis Tilton brings a youthful and optimistic approach to a character with sad circumstances. Mary Lou is a prime example of a character with a big heart and compassion. Martos and Tilton, along with the large cast of young actors capably embrace the childlike wonder required for the holiday story. Additionally, Daisy Gray and Ava Lang deliver notable performances as feisty Samantha and ill-stricken Wendy, the sisters of Virginia and Mary Lou. Moving through missed cues and opening night jitters, the cast does well to bring this story about friendship and learning worldly lessons to life.
Highview Arts Center makes the most of its performance space. The set is small yet adorned with Christmas decorations and pictures of President Eisenhower providing a 1950’s flair instead of the turn of the century. While the story has origins in the past, the overall message to continue believing in Santa, the impossible, and things that cannot be explained will always stay relevant.
Yes Virginia There Is A Santa Claus
December 2-4, 9-11, 2022
Highview Arts Center
7406 Fegenbush Lane
Louisville, KY 40228
Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrites Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!