HARRY'S CHRISTMAS by Steven Berkoff (Alley Theatre Workshop). Runs to December 10. See Continuing Theatre Listings for more details. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Holiday theatre is no place for an anxious piece like Harry's Christmas , which is why we're seeing it now. Just in time for Remembrance Day. Cheers! Harry's alone for the holidays. Crippled by self-doubt, he waits in his apartment for the phone to ring, or for the mailman to bring Christmas cards to add to his meagre collection. Phone calls to old friends, girlfriends and his equally miserable mother yield little cheer. Poor schmuck.
As Harry, Michael Kash holds the fort alone for the entire piece, riding Harry's anguish with equal parts self-deprecating humour and distress. These sentiments, familiar any time of the year, are amplified at Christmastime, when friends group together like there's chum in the water, leaving odd fish like Harry alone in a vast, cheerless sea.
Director Brian Murray and Kash attack the script with aplomb, spinning Harry around and around the spiral staircase of the character's mental process, climbing by inches toward the finale. By decking our Harry out in terrible green floodpants and a screaming purple shirt, costume designer Iona Greenham ups his pathetic bachelor factor. (Something about pleat-front pants just screams, "Love me, I'm lonely.")
But there's a weakness in the script. The middle of the play, when Harry is killing time before turning the corner to the finale, may be true to life, but it's tedious.
Couldn't playwright Steven Berkoff invent a variation on Harry's terrible inner turmoil and not just have him simply pacing and obsessing? It might be what the character would actually do, but since when was literalism an effective theatrical device?
Have a gloomy Christmas, everyone! See you at the Nutcracker.