Santa Claus is Coming Out and Motherson | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Santa Claus is Coming Out and Motherson 

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Santa Claus is Coming Out and Motherson, Bailiwick Repertory. Jeffrey Solomon's two one-man shows, now running in repertory as part of Bailiwick's Pride 2001 series, showcase his chameleonic ability to become someone else with just a tightening of the lips and a shift in stance. His new show, Santa Claus Is Coming Out, is less corny and more clever than the title suggests. Solomon uses a pseudodocumentary style augmented with "radio" clips, slides of scandalmongering newspaper headlines, and puppetry to poke gentle fun at the cultural uproar that surrounds the coming out of gay celebrities.

Here Santa is the (unseen) superstar. We hear from his agent, who arranged a moneymaking deal with Coca-Cola; the supercilious actress who poses as Mrs. Claus; Rudolph the RNRD, who oversees Santa's diversity task force; and Giovanni Geppetto, great-great-grandson of Pinocchio and Santa's "longtime companion." Solomon plays these and a dozen more stock types with little depth but a lot of humor. Only the portrait of the absent Santa is well-rounded, and his intriguing character keeps this very entertaining show from turning into a one-trick pony. Indeed, the only parts that drag are the long pauses between scenes when Solomon gathers his props--which are unnecessary because he'd be convincing without them. And the ending is too happy-ever-after for the story, but after all it is about Santa.

MotherSon is a more poignant, thoughtful show, essentially unchanged from last year's Bailiwick production--though Solomon seems to fill out the son more solidly. The production feels a little dated, especially a brief audio clip that mentions Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, but the relationship between the overprotective Mindy and her gay son Bradley continues to be rich and complicated, and Solomon plays both with understanding and heart.

--Jennifer Vanasco

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