Sanjay Talwar (left), Jeff Yung and Neema Bickersteth give the gift of laughter.
THE STORY by Martha Ross (Theatre Columbus). At Evergreen Brick Works (550 Bayview). To December 30. $12.50-$30. 416-504-7529. See listing. Rating: NNNN
While there's no shortage of outdoor winter activities in Toronto, Theatre Columbus is offering a unique and entertaining option. Their take on outdoor theatre brings together two long-standing Christmas traditions: the Nativity play and the nighttime walkabout, with fantastic results. Last year's show with a slightly different cast received six Dora noms.
Presented at the historic Evergreen Brick Works, this lighthearted, fractured fairy tale version of the Biblical story is performed on a guided tour through the picturesque 19th-century industrial buildings and the surrounding Don Valley parkland. Cute comic scenes depicting the events leading up to Mary and Joseph's arrival in Bethlehem are accompanied by classic Christmas carols sung by a different community choir each night. We saw St. Simon's.
Playwright Martha Ross takes a playful storybook approach, presenting funny sketch-like scenes peppered with one-liners that have appeal all along the age spectrum. The cartoonish action follows the three kings (Sanjay Talwar, Neema Bickersteth, Jeff Yung) as they bumble through a run-in with the villainous King Herod (Rylan Wilkie) and Mary (Haley McGee), who leaves her idealistic boyfriend, Joseph (Yung), to escape Roman authoritarianism.
In addition to his wonderfully Disneyesque bad guy Harod, Wilkie also scores big laughs as the irreverent and incompetent angel Gabriel, who takes multiple stabs at informing Mary of her complicated conception.
The company makes excellent use of the spaces in and around the hulking brick-and-beam buildings as well as the site's hills, ponds and pathways. Its location off the Bayview Extension may make the Brick Works somewhat hard to get to, but there's a free, comfy shuttle bus from Broadview subway station (see Theatre Columbus's website for the schedule), heated facilities on site and - this is essential - hot chocolate for sale to keep you warm.