Monday, November 30, 2020

"A Cattywampus Christmas" - a radio play from Yellow Tree Theatre and A.D. Players at the George Theatre

2020 has been a year like no other. But one thing remains the same - fans of Yellow Tree Theatre can return to the charming and quirky (fictional) Minnesota town of Christmas Lake. Co-Founder and Interim Artistic Director Jessica Lind Peterson has written another very Minnesotan holiday* comedy, this one as an audio play, which I listened to whilst putting up my Christmas tree. For those of us who have grown to love Christmas Lake resident Martha Knutson and her tater tot hot dish, her pet lizard Katherine, and her obsession with Little House on the Prairie, listening to A Cattywampus Christmas feels like going home for the holidays.

Yellow Tree produced this play in partnership with A.D. Players at the George Theatre in Houston, with whom Jessica has collaborated in the past. Hence the theme of "Minnesota Nice meets Texas Sizzle." Our beloved Martha (played by Jessie Rae Rayle, who originated the role and has played it multiple times since) is surprised by her previously unheard from sister Aggie (Greta Grosch of Church Basement Ladies fame) with a trip to Texas for the holidays. Don't worry, Martha is still happily married to piano tuner and fellow Little House fan Neil, but he's quarantining in Wisconsin (who knows if they even play Little House there!). Like in the the Kate Winslet/Cameron Diaz movie The Holiday, the Knutsons are swapping houses with one Cordelia Rose (Houston-based actor Skyler Sinclair), who needs a little vacation of her own after her husband left her for his Peloton instructor. But it turns out that a real white Christmas is a little more than this Texan bargained for, while the sisters run into some surprises of their own on their road trip. 

As always, the best part of a Christmas Lake play is these endearingly odd characters, and all of the jokes about snowblowers and lutefisk and other things we Minnesotans love to laugh about. It's fun to expand the world a bit this year, as Martha experiences the world "down South" (and not just the Cities), and an outsider encounters the oddities of life in Christmas Lake.

The radio play was directed by Kevin Dean, Artistic Director of A.D. Players, and features actors from both communities (also including Louis Galindo and Jeremiah Gamble). It sounds great (thanks to sound design by Jeff McMorrough and technical support from A.D. Players staff), and is just the thing to cozy up to on a cold winter day, like people cozied up to the radio in the last century.

The only things I missed in this play were Ryan Nelson's Neil, and a Blake Thomas original song. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it's to be grateful for what we do have, and I'm grateful for a new addition to the Christmas Lake universe.

Click here for more information and to purchase a ticket - just $20 per household, available through January 1.