Clague Playhouse’s ‘Ethan Claymore’ is a sweet bit of ‘peppermint’ for the holidays





It is that time of year once again as local theater and dance companies roll out the chestnuts in the form of holiday themed fare. Audiences across America flock to various versions of A Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol, Elf, Nutcracker and etc. So wouldn’t it be nice to see a Christmas themed show that is of itself totally new and unique? Take heart tinsel fans because Clague Playhouse has come to the rescue.

For 94 years this tiny local community theater has put on quality theatrical works using only local talent (50 of those years has been in their current location). With a seating capacity of 93 this intimate black box theater is a wonderful escape from the cares of the world and especially during the holidays.

Currently, the theater is staging Norm Foster’s “Ethan Claymore” that is Directed by Robert Gibb. The show was first produced at The Grand Theatre in London, Ontario in 1998.

Ethan Claymore (Jeff Bartholomew) is a childless widower who lost his beloved wife five years ago. He eeks out a living as an egg farmer in a small town in the northwest. Times are tough as his one thousand hens only produce one egg each a day. The bank is threatening to put a lien on his property. He has also withdrawn socially during his extended period of mourning to the point of not bothering to decorate his house for the holidays.

His brassy neighbor and good friend, Dottie McCLaren (Peg Neeson) has had enough and takes action to force a bit of holiday and romantic cheer on the beleaguered man. Emboldened by alcohol she sweeps in one early morning with threats of finding him “the perfect Christmas tree” as well as setting him up with Teresa Pike (Kristin Bartholomew) who has moved to the small community as a teacher in the elementary school.

Adrift in all of these challenges and changes, Ethan receives word that his estranged brother has passed away of a heart attack at the young age of 48. Martin Claymore made his livelihood as a used car salesman but it is an incident in their youth that separated the two brothers. What could not be resolved during their lives now needs to be addressed in Martin’s afterlife as he shows up at Ethan’s house as a troubled spirit sent to resolve a wrong from long ago. Luckily for Ethan, Martin has developed some supernatural powers that come in quite useful during the course of events.

As for the production, it is stellar. First to be mentioned should be Ron Newell’s stage set. It is a cozy little cottage with just the right amount of accouterments to make it look comfortable and lived in. The Lighting Design by Lance Switzer is bright and festive and Jenniver Sparano’s costume design is well appointed.

As for the actors, they are superb. Jeff Bartholomew comes across as very pleasant and unflappable with his Peyton Manningish demeanor and smile. Jeff’s wife in real life, Kristin as Teresa Pike, works well as a young lady ready to try romance once more as long as it is with the right man. Peg Neeson as Dottie McClaren is an absolute hoot bringing comic delight to the role of a woman with a mission. Charles Cover as Martin Claymore underplays the bombastic role with thought and heart. Two youngsters in the form of Jake Hunter as Young Ethan and Rick Schuler as Young Martin are flawless in their lines.

Reminiscent of the Hallmark Television series this gentle story is a nice escape from the craziness that seems to build as the holidays approach. It is a light touch of heart, holiday cheer, romance and rectification that will warm your heart like a cup of hot coco.

“Ethan Claymore” will be on stage at Clague Playhouse, 1371 Clague Road, Westlake, Ohio, through December 5, 2021. For more information, current Covid mandates and tickets go to www.clagueplayhouse.org or call (440) 331-0403.

Of special note, this is the time of year when Clague Playhouse hosts their annual “Jewelry Heist” (this is the 12th year for this very popular event). From their treasure trove of clean donated items you can find wonderful pieces including costume jewelry, scarves, handbags, and accessories. While some prices are as marked, most of the items are priced per whatever donation you feel is adequate.

The Jewelry Heist hours are Thursday and Friday 7 to 9 p.m., Saturday 1 to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 3 p.m. during performances of Ethan Claymore. The sale will also be open to the public on Saturday December 11th and 18th from 1 to 5 p.m. New items are added all the time during the sale and all proceeds go to support the theater.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.