Urban Tales X: An Undead Christmas
Six lively Holidays-inspired dark humour playlets
By Byron Toben
Some 17 years ago, Yvan Bienvenue and Théâtre Urbi et Orbi instituted a series of black humour playlets around Christmas time that proved very successful en Français. Ten years ago, director/actor/playwright/musician Harry Standjofski began an English version at the Centaur Theatre. Initially, Bienvenue’s scripts formed the core but gradually, many talented actors and writers on the English side became involved.
The current edition of six short enactments take place at ground level while above, Standjofski and his son, Mikail Stadjofski-Figols play guitar prelude and connective passages between acts.
The first three presentations by chance or design featured folk active with the Infinitheatre Pipeline series.
Arthur Holden penned Foolish, Foolish Thief featuring Stefanie Costa. Her boyfriend dragoons her into sneaking onto a locked golf course to steal a Christmas tree, not realizing that this is a sacred tree guarded by a mysterious woman who makes it difficult for them to leave. Ms. Costa recently starred in a Pipeline reading of Alice and the World We Live In, written by Alexandra Haber.
Ms. Haber also penned It’s A Wonderful Life for Urban Tales. (Despite the title, this is not the classic film played endlessly on TV at Christmas time and now in stage version recently in Montreal as a Geordie fundraiser, not to mention currently as a staged radio play in two leading Toronto theatres.)
Narrated by Jane Wheeler (who played Alice in Ms. Haber’s Pipeline entry) this suburban perfect wife goes bonkers when, helping to prepare for her husband’s office party, she discovers him involved with a secretary.
I Saw Mommy Eating Santa Claus was both written and performed by Alain Goulem (Ms. Haber’s real life hubby). Here, he masterfully portrays a high minded zombie out on Christmas eve who decides to forgo feasting on living souls at this time of good cheer. His self control works, mostly. Lots of acting fun with speech variance and squeaks.
The Double-Goer scripted by L.M. Leonard is inventively told by Urban Tales regular Danette MacKay. As a paranormal investigator for the FPI (Federal Paranormal Investigation), a fictional body… I think… she is challenged both by a younger rival and difficulties with her own daughter.
Don’t Shout, Don’t Cry authored by Harry Standjofski himself is a ‘grabber’ as enacted by Daniel Brochu. Here, a husband overhears his wife whispering in her sleep. The revelations gradually turn him against her. This does not end well.
Emile 1976 by the Urbi et Orbi originator himself Yvan Bienvenue and told by masterful veteran Michel Perron brings a wonderful tender finale to an evening of black humour terror and mayhem. It deals with a friendship between a seven-year-old boy and a much older reclusive neighbour nearing the end of his days. Although on a different subject, it had the feel, to me, of Roch Carrier’s famous Hockey Sweater.
Urban Tales X – An Undead Christmas continues at the Centaur on December 15, 16 and 17.
Tickets and information at 514 288-3161 or Centaurtheatre.com
Images: Yvan Bienvenue
Feature image: Alain Goulem in I Saw Mommy Eating Santa Claus
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club