Review: Waffle Haus offers great theater in a lowbrow package 

All In the Family

Somehow Christmas just isn't Christmas without a little redneck humor. But if all those jokes from the Griswolds' Cousin Eddie are getting a little old, have no fear: PURE Theatre's Waffle Haus Christmas will give you your fix.

This fun comedy by local playwright Rodney Lee Rogers is a bit of a departure for PURE, content-wise, as the company is known more for its serious contemporary productions. It's the story of a hardass Waffle Haus waitress, Sally Anne, her lazy line cook ex-husband Jimmy, their "special" daughter Bella, and one very memorable Christmas Eve — spent at the Waffle Haus, of course. The family is visited by three Santa Claus "ghosts" of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and in the process they learn a little something about the meaning of Christmas.

To be honest, the story is a bit hard to follow at first because the three main characters spend the first act in monologues, telling the audience about "the incident." Then the action starts, and the next three acts show each character's version of what happened that Christmas Eve, complete with a theme song. You might start out a little confused, like I was, but that's no cause for concern. The characters themselves are the real thrust of this play, and they are drawn so vividly that you're caught up in the experience before you even sit down: Jimmy's behind the Waffle Haus counter to hand you a laminated "menu" (program) as you walk into the theater.

Playwright Rogers does double-duty as both the writer, and the lovable and irresponsible Jimmy. The always excellent Sharon Graci co-directs, with David Mandel, and plays the no-nonsense Sally Anne, who is that somehow mean-yet-maternal diner waitress we all wish for every time we step into a Denny's. What makes this ensemble piece even more fun is that it is, in reality as well as fiction, a family affair. Rogers and Graci, husband and wife, share the stage with their children Tripp Hamilton, as the three ghosts in their various incarnations, and Sullivan Graci Hamilton, as Bella. As far as acting chops go, it's easy to see the family resemblance, as Tripp positively owns his many characters and their wide variety of accents. Sullivan is an electric presence on stage, whether she's helping to beat up a would-be robber or sitting quietly at the counter with her journal.

The directing is top-notch, as usual for PURE, and makes clever use of slow-motion scenes and frozen vignettes. The music choices add to the enjoyable silliness, ranging as they do from hard rock Christmas music to Elvis' "Blue Christmas" and Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Were Made for Walkin'."

Waffle Haus Christmas: It's the scattered, covered, and smothered antidote to too much Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker. Sometimes diner food is good for you.

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