Saturday November 18th 2017

“This Way Outta SantaLand” reviewed by Carol Moore

thiswayouttasantaland-tree Recommended **** “This Way Outta Santaland (and other Xmas miracles)” is one of the most open and honest theatrical events I’ve ever attended.  Mitchell Fain is well-known around Chicago for his eight-year gig as Crumpet, a grumpy Macy’s elf in David Sedaris’s hilarious story, “Santaland Diaries”.  After eight years in the pointy shoes, Fain was ready for something different; the result – an intimate evening of music and very personal soul-baring stories.  I give it 4 Spotlights.

Gathering around a piano, Mitchell Fain, his best friend, Meghan Murphy, a statuesque red-head songstress, and Julie B. Nichols, a piano player extraordinaire, began the show with a toast and a shot.  Walking over to a well stocked bar, Fain and Murphy poured themselves drinks. He moved to center stage and rattled off the first couple of lines from “Santaland”, stopped, stepped back and kicked off the pointy elf shoes. Crumpet was gone and Mitchell Fain Stood alone.

Fain’s stories, ranging from  his childhood in Rhode Island to his life in Chicago, to his mother’s death in Phoenix, are told with wry humor. Although he has faced some unusual challenges-growing up an undersized Jewish, Gay in an Italian neighborhood leaps to mind. Yet, he always seemed to search for the humor in even these situations.

Rhode Island is the costume jewelry capital of America. (how’s that for a new fact to show off with ). The women in Fain’s family- since the women in his family drove out the men, worked in that industry/ in the factories. His mother ran insurance scams in order to put food on the table. She would get a job in one of these factories, take a fall, and collect a settlement from the insurance company. When the money ran out, she would find another company, and reboot the scheme.

As a child, Fain said he fell in love with Judy Garland, playing his mother’s album of Judy Garland hits over and over. By the time he was ten, he could lip sync all of the numbers. One of his favorites was her tribute to Chicago, which was Murphy’s cue to belt out “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)”. Murphy ( who has a dynamite voice and great stage personality) did songs that connected in some way to Fain’s stories, and provided musical segues between topics

At one point Murphy and Fain cuddled up on the comfy looking sofa and just talked about their holiday pans, even asking her boyfriend, who was in the audience, whether he was staying in Chicago or going to visit his mom. Mom won!

Moving to Chicago , for both of these talents was a high point in their lives.Best friends, they lived together for years, even surviving two years in a 250 square feet studio apartment. During this portion, they traded shoes. He put on her glamorous high-heeled boots and she donned his pointy-toed elf slippers, which she said were incredibly comfortable!thiswayouttasantaland-horizontal

Fain did not go home for Christmas during his “Santaland Diaries” run. Working was always sacrosanct. He is proud that in his 8 years playing Crumpet, he only missed two performances- when he was positive that he was dying from the flu. In one of the  most poignant moments of the evening, he said that he didn’t even miss a performance when his mother passed away. In fact, he had a performance on the day he was informed that she was dying. He finished that Sunday night show, flew to Phoenix on the “red-eye” and was in his mother’s hospital room on Monday morning. She passed away on Wednesday. She was cremated in spite of the funeral director trying to sell Fain a coffin, and he flew back in time for his Wednesday night performance.

“This Way Outta Santaland (and other Christmas Miracles)” runs thru December 23rd at Theater Wit, 1229 West Belmont with performances as follows:

Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm.

Added performances: Wednesday, December 21st at 7:30 and a late night show to close the run on Friday, December 23rd at 9:30 pm.

Tickets range from $20-$29.  Valet parking is available or metered street parking.  FYI (773) 975-8150 or www.theaterwit.orgthiswayouttasantaland-vert

Running time 75 minutes- no intermission.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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