Clague Playhouse’s ‘One Christmas Eve at Evergreen Mall” has the right spirit




‘Tis the season as the commercial world wildly prepares for the Bacchanalian feast known as “The Holidays.” Halloween displays are quickly replaced by Christmas “stuff” as eager shoppers cram the stores.

The same is true with local theater as tried and true chestnuts are dusted off for their annual holiday run. This year’s offerings include the perennials “Nutcracker”, “Christmas Carol” and “Elf” and “Elf” and “Elf”.

So, where does one go to see something totally fresh and unique but still with a kernel of holiday cheer? The answer is to check out Clague Playhouse whose production of “One Christmas Eve at Evergreen Mall” is a true holiday delight. The play is a combined writing effort of Lynne Halliday, James Hindman, Arlene Hutton and Craig Pospisil.

Set in a repurposed shopping mall somewhere in Michigan, the major store chains have abandoned the complex but small local merchants have filled the spaces with their unique niche establishments. It is a homey small town setting where everyone knows everyone and they all grew up and worked together over the years.

A total of nine vignettes make up the 90 minutes (no intermission) with each one named after a popular Christmas phrase, song or hymn. “Christmas Eve Is Here”, “What Child Is This?”, “Making Spirits Bright”, “Home For The Holidays” and etc. interweave various stories about life and the holidays. Each tale comes equipped with a nice person, a not so nice person, a challenge and a satisfying happy ending as the Christmas Spirit is the balm that soothes. Even stories that seem to have no closure are in the end given a final touch of happiness. The action takes place in the central corridor of the mall, the staff room of a sporting goods store and two clothing stores in the mall.

As for the cast, they are super with each actor taking on anywhere from two to three separate rolls with lots of costume changes. The cast is made up of Don Knepper (Bell Ringer, RJ, Gerald), Mary Manos Mitchem (Darla, Joellen, Felicia), Mike Frye (Robert, Andy), Minor Stokes (Lacey, Jenny, Abbie), Noah Underhill (Todd, Terry, Robin), Jonathan McCleery (Stephen, Matthew), Beth Gaertner (Eric, Sharon, Ellie), Karen Flannery (Taylor, Molly, Linda).

This show is a gentle series of interconnected stories designed to make you laugh and just plain feel good. It is a hot coco with cinnamon and whipped cream type of production. Tickets are selling fast so order yours soon.

Don’t forget, it’s time for the 13th annual Jewelry Heist that consists of loads of donated jewelry (bracelets, necklaces, earrings, pins, watches as well as purses, scarves and furs). There is even some stuff for the guys such as watches and ties. The sale is held in the outer theater lobby during performances of “One Christmas Eve at Evergreen Mall” through December 18th and “Christmas Shorts” from December 16-18, 2022. The Jewelry Heist is open before performances on Thursday, Friday and Sunday and on Saturdays from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

“One Christmas Eve at Evergreen Mall” will be on stage at Clague Playhouse, located at 1371 Clague Road, Westlake, Ohio. For more information and to purchase tickets go to https://clagueplayhouse.org/ or call (440) 331-0403 Wednesday through Saturday from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m.

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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.