Every December for the past 38 years, Lamb’s Players Theatre has created a celebration of Christmas in the form of a holiday play. The “Festival of Christmas” performances are different each year — sometimes new, sometimes familiar — and they have become a tradition for thousands of families in San Diego during the holiday season.
This year Lamb’s Christmas production is called “All I Want for Christmas,” written by Associate Artistic Director Kerry Meads. She has written 15 different plays for December, and the last time this play was presented was in 2006. This year, Kerry takes a leading role in the play alongside many familiar Associate Artists from the Lamb’s Players cast.
The play is set in Little Italy in 1949 and centers around Gold’s Fountain, a family-owned cafe. The multi-generational family lives in rooms above and beside the cafe, and most of their interactions take place at the Formica tabletops and soda fountain bar stools. As always, the audience feels like they are right in the scene with the actors thanks to the small theater and brilliantly-utilized stage space. Scenic Designer Mike Buckley deserves a tip of the hat for his creative use of the small stage, out of which he carved three bedrooms and an elaborate cafe.
The family consists of a patriarchal great-grandfather (Fritz, played by Jim Chovick), his resigned daughter (GG, played by Kerry Meads), her head-in-the-clouds adult son (Anthony, played by Jordan Miller), and his sweet but lonely young boy (Clark, played by Gage Magosin).
Fritz and GG hold down the fort in the cafe during the day while their friends visit with unresolved issues: Joe the milkman, who’s been sweet on GG for years; Bernice the taxi driver, who longs for the radio announcer Voice of San Diego to fall in love with her; and Milton, the mysterious and tenderhearted radio repairman. Meanwhile, head-in-the-clouds Anthony dashes in and out of the cafe with the rest of his singing quartet, their hearts set on making it big and heading up to L.A.
Anthony’s son, Clark, observes the interactions with winsome insight that is touching as well as charming. This young actor, Gage Magosin, makes his Lamb’s Players debut in this production, and he is brilliantly cast, completely authentic, and totally endearing. He is the perfect compliment to Kerry Mead’s gruff grandmotherly nurturing, which belies her tender heart and own quiet sorrows.
Like all families, this one has issues — love, loss, longing — that feel familiar to all of us this Christmas season. And, unlike some playwrights, Kerry Meads understands this, and her goal is not to push the envelope on human relationships or challenge our expectations, but instead to draw the characters together. She tugs unseen marionette strings to satisfy the character’s long-held dreams and warm the hearts of the audience at Christmas.
“All I Want for Christmas” is a heartfelt tribute to families, belonging, and the greatest gift of all — love — which is what we all want for Christmas, after all.
For tickets and show information, visit the Lamb’s Players Theatre website. Discounts for youth, military, seniors, and veterans are available.
All images courtesy of John Howard for Lamb’s Players Theatre.