All in the Family 

Richmond Triangle Players give us a gift with “Comfort and Joy.”

click to enlarge As the Christmas fairy, Ford Flannagan comes between happy couple Keith Fitzgerald (left) and Trevor Kimball in the Richmond Triangle Players' hilarious new holiday play.
  • As the Christmas fairy, Ford Flannagan comes between happy couple Keith Fitzgerald (left) and Trevor Kimball in the Richmond Triangle Players' hilarious new holiday play.

Holiday entertainment often gets a free pass from audiences. Over-the-top sentimentality, wooden acting and cookie-cutter plots are often granted clemency just because 'tis the season. Luckily for local audiences, the Richmond Triangle Players' latest endeavor does its best to ignore these traditions and serve up a show both hilarious and touching instead.

Scott and Tony are a gay couple living in California's Hollywood Hills. It's Christmas Eve and Scott's overbearing Texan mother has come to visit for the holidays. As if the classic “meet the parents” scenario wasn't enough, Tony's siblings keep dropping by to mess with the program. Tony's relations have been anything but close over the past 15 years, and still carry baggage from their impoverished upbringing. Of course, none of these contentious relationships could ever be fused back together without a little help from a magical Christmas fairy.

Ford Flannagan puts in excellent performances as the Fairy and a half-dozen other characters. Starlet Knight plays Scott's mother Doris, putting on her best Blanche DuBois while still keeping in step with the comedy. Trevor Kimball plays Scott as the foil to all the half-mad characters around him. He has trouble always connecting in the comedic scenes, but soars in the dramatic ones, like the flashback to the scene where Scott and Tony meet.

Keith Fitzgerald captures the passion of Italian-American Tony. Even when Tony gets on his soapbox about society's treatment of sexual minorities, Fitzgerald manages to make it work for the character. Amy Berlin's direction in the dramatic scenes is emotionally arresting, especially when Scott flashes back in time to a conversation with a lover he lost to AIDS.

While frequently funny, the show stumbles at times as it tries to find its comedic footing. David Allan Ballas' art-deco-inspired set is functional enough for the play, but hardly the style of a wealthy couple down the street from the Spielbergs.

K. Jenna Ferree does an admirable job with her lighting design, especially considering the Spartan lighting that Triangle has to work with. Many of the sound cues were late or premature on opening night, such as an organ played overtop of Scott and Keith's dialogue when it was intended for a religious zealot later in the show.

With plenty of zingers about Britney and Christina, Hollywood and copulating with Minnie Mouse, Jack Heifner's “Comfort and Joy” takes Christmas into much more interesting and hilarious territory than the normal yuletide fare. If you're tired of watching reruns of “The Santa Clause 3” and want a fun night of theater with a touch of tinsel, give “Comfort and Joy” a try.

“Comfort and Joy” runs through Dec. 11 at Richmond Triangle Players, 1300 Altamont Ave. Tickets are $20-25. Call 346-8113 or visit http://www.rtriangle.org for information.

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