Saturday, December 10, 2022

"Nimbus Presents: A Count Up to Christmas" by nimbus theatre at the Crane Theater

nimbus theatre's contribution to the #TCTheater holiday* space (and I think their first holiday show in their 20 years) is a delightful spoof of the beloved Hallmark Christmas movie. You know the one, in which a big city person finds themselves in a quaint small town, where they find love and a purpose. Nimbus Presents: A Count Up to Christmas is so full of these movie clichés that they offer a bingo card with items like "peppermint spice," "sledding," "coffee shop." And check off nearly every one. Whether you love or hate these movies, A Count Up to Christmas is a cute and fun way to experience them. See it at the Crane Theater in Northeast through December 18.

The hero of our story is Caroline (Tara Lucchino), who is fired from her big city marketing job and dumped by her fiancé just two weeks before Christmas. To distract her from her misery, her friend buys her a Groupon (remember those?) to an inn in a charming small town called Wannacutatree (get it?). She just wants to sit in the inn and read, but of course, the movie tropes have other plans for her. Both the town sheriff (Derek Dirlam) and coffee shop owner (Annick Dall) vie for her affections (I'm not sure if the Hallmark movie has embraced LGBTQ+ romances, but it's nice that this play does), and she gets pulled into helping a group of townspeople try to save their annual Christmas fair by using her marketing skills. There's no mystery as to where this story ends - happily of course - but it's fun to watch the clichés unfold.

an unexpected love triangle (Annick Dall, Derek Dirlam,
and Tara Lucchino, photo by Emily Barrera)
The script (written by co-Artistic Director Josh Cragun) is full of Christmas puns and double entendres, and doesn't take itself too seriously, pointing out obvious plot holes along the way. Directed by co-Artistic Director Liz Neerland, the show has a sort of wink-wink feel, as if its in on the joke. The entire cast (which also includes Christy Johnson as the town business owner, Alex Stokes as the plucky kid who's 8 years old but talks like he's 35, Jeffrey Goodson as the mayor, and Jane Hammill as the innkeeper) leans into the tone and has fun with the show. Perhaps the funniest bits are the short commercials for other movies in the "Count Up to Christmas" on the nimbus channel, and I kinda wish I could watch all of them (especially the Twin Peaks-inspired one).

The Crane Theater's performance space looks very festive and cozy. The outdoor scene on one half includes huge trees (which are rotated to reveal ornaments at various points in the show), hay bales, cotton snow, a sledding hill, and snowmen (including one "built" before our very eyes!). The Valley Peak Inn / Risky Bisqueness coffee shop on the other half is full of books, holiday decor, and other tchotchkes (including a leg lamp). It's all very detailed and thorough, and feels just like one of those Christmas movies come to life. From big city to small town gear, and lots of outerwear, the costumes are spot-on too. (Scenic design by Gaea Dill-D'Ascoli, costume design by Rubble&Ash).

nimbus' Christmas count-up is down to seven - click here to purchase tickets to one of the remaining performances of Nimbus Presents: A Count Up to Christmas (through December 18, all shows on a sliding scale fee).

*Click here for reviews of all of the holiday shows I've seen this year.