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July 14, 2024

Review: Christmas play is rib-tickling fun

Cabaret Prime Rib Playhouse
Valerie Rachelle, Matthew Staley and Matthew Tiberi in "Christmas at the Prime Rim Playhouse," which continues through Dec. 31 at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. Rick Robinson photo
November 23, 2023

Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s fast-paced original comedy features a chaotic show within a show

By Lee Juillerat for Ashland.news

A different kind of prime rib being served for the holidays at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre.

The prime ribs cooked up in “Christmas at the Prime Rib Playhouse” feature generous helpings of comedic farce that pokes fun at actors, directors and the inner workings of theater.

The rib-tickling, lickety-split-paced play takes place both behind and on the stage at a holiday production, “Fa-La-La Ladies and Mistletoe Men,” at the Prime Rib Playhouse, a theater that its co-owner/director boasts offers “Broadway shows at small-town prices.”

The deets
“Christmas at the Prime Rib Playhouse” runs through Dec. 31 with 1 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays and 8 p.m. shows Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays.
Tickets are $43 for A-level seating with limited $39 B-level seating and $29 C-level seating. The Cabaret offers a 15% ticket discount for groups of 12 or more for select ticket types and performances. Student rush tickets, priced at $15, can be purchased 30 minutes before curtain with a valid student ID, subject to availability.
Reservations required for preshow dinner or brunch. Appetizers, cocktails, beverages and desserts available without reservations. The New Year’s Eve performance will feature a full buffet, post-show entertainment and a champagne toast at midnight.
For more information or to purchase tickets call the Oregon Cabaret Theatre box office at 541-488-2902 or visit oregoncabaret.com.

Big time laughs come fast and furious in the play, the professional premiere of Erik Stein’s original holiday comedy.

It features a diverse blend of characters, beginning with Joe Kneedler, a recent college graduate and self-described “fish out of water,” making his Playhouse debut. He encounters Erich, the theater’s stage technician who’ll do — and does — anything to be on the stage. After dealing with a helping of ribald flirtations from Ken, Joe is exposed to the deliriously anxious Theresa, a very — nine months and counting — pregnant Gina, before he finally meets Sue, the theater’s whirlwind artistic director.

The rehearsals are disasters, with the chaos increased as Sue uses her cell phone to record the inner, behind-the-scenes workings of directing a play.

Rick Robinson, who co-directs the play with Alex Boyles, describes “Fa-La-La” as a play in which “we get to watch when the backstage dysfunction spills out onto the stage in the show-within-a-show. … Add to that a fun romance and a rogue’s gallery of colorful characters, and you have everything you want in a holiday comedy. We’ve laughed so much in rehearsal, my face hurts.”

Audiences were happily hurting as the play-within-a-play rolled out silly songs, spewed wacky puns and, most impressively of all, performed unspoken acts of wow-inducing physical comedy, especially Matthew Tiberi as Ken.

Several Cabaret veterans are featured, including artistic director Valerie Rachelle as the “show up, shut up, wear beige” director, along with Deanna Ott, Matthew Tiberi, Matthew Staley, Lauren Blair, and Nicole Villavicencio and Cabaret newcomer Toby Tropper. Almost everyone has a chance to shine — or for Villavicencio and Ott — shriek and scream.

“Christmas at the Prime Rib Playhouse” neatly includes real-life drama involving the behind-the-scenes interactions of “Fa-La-Las” performers.

Likewise, the play is strengthened by its deft choreography and the entire cast’s physical comedy. Co-directors Robinson and Boyles, who is completing his first year as the Cabaret’s associate artistic director, have successfully guided the cast to frequently use more than words to create chaotic comedy.

“Christmas at the Prime Rib Playhouse” features an original script by Erik Stein with music and lyrics by Paul Marszalkowski. Making his Cabaret directorial debut is Alex Boyles, who is also finishing up his first year as an associate artistic director. The play’s design team includes set designer Sean O’Skea, lighting designer Michael Stanfill, sound designer Lindsay Jones, props designer Jackie Perron and costume designer Arian Marie Moye.

If it were a movie, “Christmas at the Prime Rib Playhouse” would be rated PG-13 for mildly coarse language and adult situations.

“Christmas” will be performed through Sunday, Dec. 31, with 1 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays and 8 p.m. performances on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays. And, yes, the dinner menu includes prime rib.

Email freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net.

Nov. 29: Updated cast members’ names.

Picture of Jim

Jim

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