Yuletide politics

And to All a Good Night

Dave Pierini and Kurt Johnson demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas: fighting over presents.

Dave Pierini and Kurt Johnson demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas: fighting over presents.

Rated 4.0

The Lord does work in mysterious ways. In 1997, Buck Busfield staged an original Christmas comedy at the B Street Theatre called And to All a Good Night. It was topical and contemporary, and quite funny, and it lingers in memory as one of his better scripts.

Now, Busfield has revived And to All a Good Night. The script is almost exactly the same, but—surprise!—the show’s a little different. It’s funnier and even more topical than before. What’s changed? The way it spins and (of course) the times we live in.

Back then, Bill Clinton was in the White House, and actor Tom Redding played the play’s pivotal character, pastor Calvin Ridges, as a kind of do-gooder liberal with a serious logic flaw. When Calvin apprehends two robbers in his living room on Christmas Eve, he holds them at gunpoint and tries to reason with them and reform them. He could have had a Davis address.

Now, it’s George W.’s turn at the presidency, and faith-based initiatives are the rage. Calvin (played this time by Michael Stevenson, with a soft Southern drawl) is a “compassionate conservative.” With a handgun. When he urges those robbers to choose good over bad, it’s hilarious, and it hits just as close to the bone—maybe closer.

Calvin also has it out for the decadent, devious, deceiving French. Seven years ago, this was a lark on the part of the playwright. Now, after last year’s right-wing France-bashing, this dialogue from 1997 has assumed new comic implications.

Three members of the original cast return. Kurt Johnson and Dave Pierini are back as the hapless robbers. Seven years on, they’re more experienced as actors and men, and it shows. Mitch Agruss (whom we’d like to see on stage more often!) reprises his wise, spooky performance as that portly gent who calls on the 25th.

Stephanie McVay is ready to snap as the pastor’s long-suffering wife. It’s a thankless role, in life and onstage. Jamie Kale plays rebellious daughter Jen, who’s decided to get pregnant. Travis Beaty plays her boyfriend, Chardin. He has few lines but many meaningful gazes.

The costumes by Kim Simons are excellent, from Calvin’s loud red pajama pants to Chardin and Jen’s gothic black gear and the robbers’ dirty, bedraggled holiday garments.

As always with Busfield’s holiday shows, this one’s a short, sweet confection, briskly paced and to-the-point. Busfield couldn’t have foreseen the country’s political transformation when he wrote the play, but self-important posturing is always funny onstage, regardless of the political garb.