by Mark Medoff
Theatre New Brunswick
Reviewed by Douglas Hughes for the Saint John Evening Times-Globe
12 December 1996
In presenting Mark Medoff's "Kringle's Window" last night at the Imperial Theatre, Fredericton's Theatre New Brunswick could not have come up with a more tiresome, trite and tedious offering for the Christmas season.
It seems almost impossible to believe that the man who wrote a play as sensitive and intelligent as "Children Of A Lesser God" is the same man who penned this slushy, sentimental, embarrassing and thoroughly false piece of theatrical tripe which in essence is no more than a badly updated variation on Dickens's "A Christmas Carol," Clement Moore's "The Night Before Christmas," or that famous letter from a 19th century American journalist who assures a little girl named Virginia that there really is a Santa Claus.
"Kringle's Window" takes us into the home of a typical dysfunctional American household as Christmas approaches. Irene (Michelle Daigle) is struggling to keep things together although she and her husband Dean (David Nairn) are separated and she is stuck with two young daughters with singularly unattractive names -- Boomer (Tessa McKim) and Becka (Amanda Bentley) -- and singularly unattractive personalities. The older one, Becka, is all twisted up and uncommunicative because she misses her Dad and spends most of her time scowling in brooding silence at a computer screen; the younger one, Boomer, is a whining brat who suffers a major anxiety attack on being told that Santa Claus does not really exist.
Then suddenly Mrs. Rosen (Glenda Landry) steps into this messy scenario. Dowdily dressed she simply appears out of nowhere and takes up residence in the hollow trunk of a tree near the blighted household. Honestly, she does. Eventually, she reveals herself to the kids, and they think she's such a swell old gal that they take her home to Mom who without hesitation invites her to stay over for the holidays. Just like that.
It turns out, of course, that Mrs. Rosen is an angel in frump. It turns out that Mrs. Rosen can make a fully-trimmed Christmas tree double in size simply by glancing at it. It turns out that Mrs. Rosen can tote home a small grocery bag and extract from it enough provisions to last a family for a month. It turns out that Mrs. Rosen can heal hearts and hard feelings with a few words. And it turns out that Mrs. Rosen is a computer whiz who helps the brooding Becka find the real Santa Claus's website for her sister with a few swift clicks of the mouse and then summon Santa to the trouble spot.
Now get this.
When Santa does arrive via the chimney it turns out that Mrs. Rosen is Santa Claus's mother. Needless to say, all ends happily, with the family reunited, Becka's trauma lifted, and Boomer's faith in Santa Claus restored.
Recalling this, I feel a bit like Canada's greatest comedienne, Anna Russell, who in her hilarious plot outlines of the operas in Wagner's "Ring Cycle" would suddenly pause, eye her audience balefully, and say, "I'm not making this up, you know."
Well neither am I making this up about "Kringle's Window," you know. If you don't believe me, you'll have to see it for yourself.
The dialogue throughout is so puerile that it distresses me to think of a line of it. However, like my colleague Russ Hunt -- who reviewed this production when it opened in Fredericton for the Telegraph Journal -- I was appalled to hear Boomer ask Santa Claus, "Do your reindeer poop on rooftops?"
Now I ask you, what kind of crap is that?
Still and all, my heartiest congratulations go out to director Walter Learning and every member of the "Kringle's Window" cast. That they were able to get through this truly awful farrago without once gagging or giggling -- or both -- says something, I suppose, about their professional dedication to the theatre.
"Kringle's Window" runs again tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. A 2 p.m. matinee is scheduled for Saturday. To order tickets, call the Imperial box office at 633-9494.