Like the Christmas Lake plays, A Hunting Shack Christmas centers on a relatively normal couple facing a possibly life-changing event who encounters some ridiculously Minnesotan characters. Charlie and Jennifer live a perfectly comfortable life in "The Cities," but perhaps one that's lacking a bit of adventure. On the eve of their 10th anniversary vow renewal, Charlie skips town to head to his grandfather's hunting shack to contemplate his life and the changes he's being forced to make. Jennifer is upset that he left, and follows him to the rustic shack. Much to their surprise, Charlie's eccentric uncle Paul and (sort of) aunt June and cousin Ham are squatting in the cabin, and are none too happy to have their lives interrupted by this "citiot." Charlie and Ham bicker like boys, and even engage in some hilarious slow-mo childish fighting. But at the insistence of Aunt June, everyone makes peace with each other, and Charlie and Jen decide to make a change for the better. This oddball family lives happily ever after in their cozy hunting shack (at least until the sequel).
|John Haynes, Greta Grosch, and |
Sasha Andreev (photo by Keri Pickett)
I've never been to a hunting shack, but Katie Phillips' set design looks pretty authentic to me, in fact it looks quite appealing (minus the alleged smell, anyway). Walking into the theater you go through the entry way of a typical cabin (or Minnesota home), with various coats, jackets, snowsuits, and other warm weather gear. The stage is populated with an ugly couch with mismatched afghans, a wood-burning stove, and kitchen appliances that looks rustic and barely functional. And oh yes, there are the deer heads and mounted fish one would expect at a hunting establishment. Lori Schwartz's costumes are entirely appropriate to this world, from the citiots' puffy vests to the comfy nightwear to the warm but not so stylish outerwear.
Yellow Tree Theatre has done it again - created an original holiday show, written by someone* who obviously has familiarity with and affection for Minnesota, that delights and entertains its loyal audience. Their last play featured a couple of Ivey winners, and their next play stars a brilliant actor currently playing Scrooge at the Guthrie, but Yellow Tree hasn't forgotten who their audience is and what they want to see at the holidays. With A Hunting Shack Christmas, they've delivered a thoroughly enjoyable play worthy of its popularity.
|Sasha Andreev and Daisy Macklin Skarning (photo by Keri Pickett)|
*For more of Jessica's funny and folksy Minnesota writing, check out her blog
Unfamous Minnesota Girl.