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A CurtainUp Review
The Truth About Santa
By Julia Furay
The real subtitle of The Truth About Santa is An Apocalyptic Christmas Tale and that tells you what you're in for which is quite a twisted Christmas story. And it's definitely not for kids who believe in Santa. Instead it's a cheerfully dark commentary on the massive annual bonanza we all know and love.
The Santa and Santa's wife we meet in Kotis's story are ancient, godlike immortals who can't stand each other (think Zeus and Hera). Santa (Bill Coelius), at play's start, is revealed to have two magical children with regular American housewife Mary (Ayun Halliday, Kotis's real wife). Her troubled relationship with husband George (Kotis) is a sarcastic echo of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed's marriage in It's a Wonderful Life.
Antics abound. The family travels to the North Pole where they encounter Mrs. Claus (the energetically evil Lusia Strus) who has enlisted a pair of guitar-strumming elves to for engaging in her the wrathful acts. Death, time travel, igloo cars, and a possible apocalypse are in store for the besieged characters. However, it's clear throughout that underneath all the zany jokes and madcap mishaps, The Truth About Santa wants to explore the real reason for the season (hint: it's not Jesus's birth) and inform us about the roots of our traditions.
Director John Clancy has capitalized on the show's homespun, homemade feel with cardboard cutouts for props and scenery and even some tentative moments of audience participation. However, Kotis's script could use some tweaking. The songs (mostly performed by the troubadour elves) are witty and appealing, but the story takes so many goofy twists and turns that it feels more amateurish than necessary. Even more problematic are the jokes, many of which just don't fly.
The flaws notwithstanding, this is a creative and appealing take on Christmas, a welcome change from all the saccharine sentiment that's so prevalent this time of year. The price is definitely family friendly and , casting the Kotis kids gives the show heart. Young India and Milo Kotis may not be professionals, but the family's obvious team spirit is enough to make The Truth About Santa more touching than its cynical script might suggest.