Saturday February 24th 2018

“This Way Outta Santaland (and other Xmas Miracles)

Many Chicago theater patrons are familiar with a clever little show entitled “The Santaland Diaries” that was produced for 8 years at Theater Wit. It was the perfect vehicle for actor Mitchell Fain, as he is an adorable little actor with a bubbly personality and makes a perfect little elf. During his 8 years of playing the adorable little “helper” working in a major department store as the right hand man to the “star”, he won the hearts of many audience members, but what did we know about him, the actor himself. Last year, he put on a workshop of a new show that he write. In this new show, Fain explains Mitchell Fain , allowing us, the audience , to get into his life and see exactly what make shim tick!

Evidently, the workshop was a success and the Theater Wit family decided to bring it back as a full-blown mainstage production for the 2017 Holiday season. Unlike the show where we met the character he was playing, this is a tell-all about Fain and his life, as a boy and as a man. Fain grew up in Rhode Island. A very small state, and he is a very small person. On top of being on the small side, he is also Gay and to top it all off, Jewish! Some people might look at this as three strikes and your out. Fain looks at this as a challenge that he must not only meet, but conquer.

“This Way Outta Santaland” is not a one-man show like “Diaries”, but in fact is him telling us HIS story with the help of former room-mate (and great talent) Meghan Murphy ( a Chicago favorite) with some great original music by Murphy and Julie B. Nichols ( who also handles the keyboards). Directed by Jeremy Wechsler, who has been involved with Fain’s talents for years, this is a warm and very honest look into that which makes an actor tick, and Fain is a great story-teller. While I am certain that there is some embellishment to his stories, they are wonderful and even if they are a bit untrue, who cares?

The set (Courtney O’Neill ) is a large living room, which Fain claims is much nicer that the apartment he calls home and as someone who was an actor many years ago, I am pretty sure that this is the gospel. This is a 100 minutes, uninterrupted by intermissions, allowing us toe see Fain’s eyes as he reveals his coming-out, his family-life, his relations, his celebrations of a holiday that is meant for other-than-Jews and his relationships with the city of Chicago, his home for many years. There are times that he has the house lights on so he can ask the audience questions and speak to them directly. As I said, he is a warm, sweet man who people adore. It is probably impossible not to like him, and based on watching Murphy and Nichols, and their relationship with him, one can see just how honest he is.

By the way, Murphy is very special in this show, singing holiday songs as they have never been done before and the tech people certainly know hos to make the three performers look special. Mike Durst (lighting), Jeffrey Levin (sound, although, I think Fain’s body mike was not on) and Amanda Herrmann’s delicious props, all help to give us the radiant feeling of the man opening his heart and soul up to the strangers who are visiting him for the holidays. He gets audience members to observe his holiday with him and in some cases talk about their own experiences. But the true emphasis of this show is to share his life, the ups and downs- highs an lows with us. We learn about his family life, the drunks in same, his mother’s lies and death, his fathers escape from life and the 250 plus performances as that little elf, Crumpet, in the theater directly south of the one where this performance takes place.

If you have seen “The Santaland Diaries” and loved ( or at least enjoyed him) it, you will find yourself wanting to hear every word of what he has to say about his life. Listening to Murphy sing her songs and play with Fain ( as old room-mates might) is a special feature that makes the show even more special and of course the talent of Nichols speaks for itself. “This Way Outta Santaland” will continue at Theater Wit’s “theater two” thru December 30th with performances as follows:

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  7:30 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

ADDED- Wednesday, 12/20 and 12/27 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $28- $40 and can be purchased at the box office located at 1229 West Belmont, by calling 773-975-8150 or online at www.TheaterWit.org

Parking in the area is tough, but attainable with meters at some. There is valet parking  and public transportation is available.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “This Way Outta Santaland ( and other Christmas Miracles)”

 

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