Let’s face it, the holiday season is all about getting family together. And as much as we’d all like to think that that’s a good thing, the truth is that when family members are forced to spend hours on end in the same house it can often spell chaos – which is the main thrust of The Brick’s production of Deck The Hallmans! (improvised by the ensemble and directed by Audrey Crabtree).
Too many generations mingling with too many lifestyles which are sometimes in direct conflict with each other; old traditions that aren’t cherished anymore, versus old heirlooms that are given too much value; hidden agendas nestled in among the good wishes and feigned merriment, all wrapped up with a nice bow. Throw in a little improv, some choreographed punches, and the Hallmans find themselves thoroughly Decked.
I liked the loose improv of this show, which begins with Dave the security guy (Played by Director Audrey Crabtree) thoroughly policing the crowd. Ms. Crabtree has great ironic timing and, when asking the crowd for nuggets that will become seeds of the story (such as names of childhood pets, issues you have with your parents, or ideas for where the family last may have gotten together) she has a way of getting a laugh from the most pedestrian of answers. Naturally comic and comically natural she keeps the plot moving along and adds just the right touch between scenes as we spend what almost seems like Christmas Eve played out in real time.
The family consists of blissfully quaint dad Bob Hallman (Robert Honeywell) who invites the rest of his family to “come into my office” whenever he thinks they need a heart to heart, his wife Carol (Moira Stone – who displays shades of SNL vet Mary Gross) a devoted housewife who dithers about cooking her “slow food”, the twins Chris and Chrissy played simultaneously (with the switch of a hat) by Lauri Berritta, eccentric Aunt Lily (Alyssa Simon) who does experimental theatre and wafts into the room like a hipster version of Vera Charles. Add to this a curmudgeonly old Grandma (Iracel Rivero) , her male nurse (Jonathan Kaplan), Laverne the frisky neighbor (Donetta Riley), a blowhard uncle (Lynn Berg) and eventually a crazy ex wife (also Audrey Crabtree) and there’s enough here to keep the night moving along with plenty to riff off of.
Interspersed throughout the night are Adam Swiderski’s choreographed fights, some of which play out comically well, some of which are cartoonish (but intentionally so) and some of which are a bit of a stretch. Still, the mood remains in tact throughout, and aside from a few glitches (As this is an improv show I had the feeling something went wrong as the cast displayed various stages of boredom waiting for dinner to be done … and no one knew where to pick it up. Still, this was more a missed opportunity rather than a solid misstep) it was fun to watch the cast incorporate the audience’s ideas. The final fight which had the entire cast at each other throats is reminiscent of a live-action version of some day dreams we’ve all no doubt had at the holiday dinner-table. All in all Deck the Hallmans! is a satisfying pre-holiday gear up to the petty arguments and full blown fights that, no doubt, will grace some homes this season.
~ ~ ~Deck the Hallmans!
Presented as part of the Brick Theater’s Fight Fest Remaining Show: Saturday Dec 19 at 11pm
575 Metropolitan Avenue (between Union and Lorimer Street)
Brooklyn For more information, Click Here