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'Tis the Seasonal Depression
by Sean Margaret Wagner
2017-11-22

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Authors: Sarah Collier, Katie Cutler, Evan M. Duggan, Julie Fishbach, Clay Goodpasture, Christopher "Tito" Thies Lotito, Greg Phelps and Laurel Posakony.

At: Pride Arts Center Broadway Theater, 4139 N. Broadway. Tickets: GayCo.com; $12-$20. Runs through: Dec. 22

The ensemble at GayCo Productions is bringing all the wonder and dread of the holiday season to life with 'Tis the Seasonal Depression, a celebration of all of the usual pitfalls of holiday gayness.

It's an evening of sketch comedy interspersed with songs, running gags and well-worn tropes out of televised Christmas specials. ( Think of your favorite celebrity addressing the camera with "Oh, hi—I didn't see you there!" ) Not every joke lands with the same ferocity; like most holiday specials, the sketches are broad—maybe even a little pandering—to an audience ready to raise its individual-sized wine bottles and "Yaaas" loudly. However, when this ensemble gets honest and weirdly specific, it can really charm the pants off of you.

Sketch performers Sarah Collier, Katie Cutler, Evan M. Duggan, Julie Fishbach, Clay Goodpasture, Christopher "Tito" Thies Lotito, Greg Phelps and Laurel Posakony each brings heightened tales of holiday annoyances, coming out and enduring their significant other's families to life. The production moves at a near-perfect clip for unconventional scenes like auditions for Mrs. Claus gone awry, or one family's insistence on performing a bloody, socialist propaganda Nutcracker together, or a Bisexual Bluegrass Jamboree worthy of Hee-Haw. ( Clay Goodpasture really kills it on the jug. )

The true strength of this ensemble is in raucous musical numbers, and there is no shortage thanks in large part to the efforts of musical director Kathleen Gibson. The cast members regale us with numbers like the Les Miz-tinted "War On Christmas," a hymn titled "You can't Jerk Off Until Your Family Leaves" and a rap song to bring Grindr body-shamers to task entitled "Yes Fats, Yes Femmes."

Director Jeff Bouthiette has curated this evening of sketches that range from from tongue-in-cheek winking to tongue-in-teeth biting, but not every sketch lands with the solid laughs this team seeks. One running gag about holiday church services for different faiths needs a more polished punch line, and another recurring bit featuring bit in which family members of each cast member submit their ill-conceived comedy sketches takes a bit of time and head scratching before it gets off the ground. Although each of these holiday sketches was unique, we spend a great deal of time musing on the white, middle-class gay experience. What I wouldn't have given to see more representation from performers of color.

Still, the cast is strong, and where they may struggle to win you over with a laugh, the performers have no qualms about buttering you up with a little holiday cheer. Keep your eyes peeled for standouts Sarah Collier as an unappreciated reindeer, Katie Cutler as a jilted Mrs. Claus and Christopher "Tito" Thies Lotito's dramatic interpretations of Heart music videos.


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