Review: ELFuego

By Wendy Rosenfield

For the Inquirer

Just as most Jewish holidays have the same theme (They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.), some attentive comedian--Seinfeld? Stewart?--noted that many Christmas stories also share a common plot: someone’s trying to steal Christmas and we have to get it back! BCKSEET Productions’ newest entry into the crowded yuletide market is true to that form with ELFuego, an original musical by company artistic director Kate Brennan, in which Occupying elves hijack the holiday.

And that’s where things get muddy. Scab the Elf (tiny Sarah Doherty, whose wide-eyed comedic style outclasses this script) accidentally set Santa’s workshop ablaze, resulting in what sounds like a North Pole version of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. The elves went on strike and Scab, as one might expect, brought in four human replacements: Frank, an ex-soldier (Jeremy Gable), Euki, a pregnant ex-nun (Maria Konstantinidis), Quran, a Muslim student (Craig Bazan) and Hope, a half-Jewish businesswoman from an undetermined profession. 

These non-elf workers, kidnapped and tied to chairs in some sort of interrogation room, sing several “I am” songs followed by a few longing “I want songs,” almost all of which sound remarkably similar (Frank’s country-tinged “Particular” is a welcome exception), until, yes, Christmas is saved. But somewhere along the way, Brennan’s script backs away from its political and multicutural overtones, leaving both issues not only unresolved but perhaps sending a message opposite the one she intended. 

It’s surely not a great week to mess up a unionist fable (see: Michigan), and never a great time to depict members of other religions being held against their will and forced to participate in Christian rituals (see: Inquisition), not even if they don choir robes and the Muslim starts singing a joyous gospel tune (“When Will the Light Shine?”). The gift here, that this cast’s considerable charm, chops and enthusiasm exceed Brennan’s material and director Brandon King McShaffrey’s inconsistent direction (Why do characters sometimes open and walk through a door, but later just step around that same wall?), may be something of a holiday miracle.

ELFuego

Playing at: Skybox at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St., Philadelphia. Through Saturday, Dec. 29. Tickets: $21 to $28. Information: 267-603-3533 or www.BCKSEET.com


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