The Christmas Tree sparkles with wit
Play demonstrates writer's flair for funny dialogue
Bob Clark
Calgary Herald --- Thursday, November 27, 2008

Vying for the last tree on the lot on Christmas Eve turns out to be a verbal joust for two lonely people who just can't seem to resist telling lies when it comes to revealing the truth about themselves in the new Norm Foster comedy which premiered on Tuesday at Lunchbox Theatre.

Commissioned by Lunchbox artistic director Martin Fishman as this year's Lunchbox seasonal offering, The Christmas Tree is vintage Foster -clever words that say far more than deeds, here in the case of the recently careworn but wary fashionista Sonja (Heather Lea MacCallum) and Daniel (Christopher Hunt), who has a savvy, way-of-the-world air about him. Each resorts to tall autobiographical sketches about themselves in an ongoing effort to seem more deserving of a forlorn little spruce that would seem more at home across the street in the Alberta Theatre Projects props department.

As good as the best writers of sitcoms when it comes to giving heart to their creations, Foster also demonstrates here his unerring and sophisticated ear for the kind of dialogue that has a cleverly funny, damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you don't, dead-end way of coming back on itself. Case in point: early on in this two-hander, Daniel grabs the tree only to relent under Sonja's protestations -and propose instead that they toss for it. When Sonja asks who's going to call it, Daniel says he doesn't care. But then after calling "heads," Sonja is roundly rebuked by Daniel for first, taking the initiative and, second, an initiative that betrays motives of a personal and gender nature. (And besides, Daniel points out, didn't she already know that heads are statistically more likely than tails?) You can see where stuff like that is heading-and that it all wears so durably in the Fishman-directed, theatre-in-the-round Lunchbox production probably because both actors (although MacCallum seems to come dangerously close to giving it all away by bursting out in laughter, at several points) play so well off each other's characters and their lies-and the truth behind the logic of those lies.

Review: The Christmas Tree By Norm Foster Runs through Dec. 20 at lunchbox theatre. tickets: Call 403-265-4292.

Rating 4 of five

Christopher Hunt and Heather Lea MacCallum in The Christmas Tree