Offbeat on Stage

Two shows fit the bill for nontraditional holiday plays

Two shows currently running in the North Bay fit the bill for theater patrons seeking something outside the realm of a traditional holiday play. Santa Rosa’s Left Edge Theatre would like you to spend some time in Escanaba in da Moonlight while Sebastopol’s Main Stage West invites you to hang out with The Seafarer.

Actor Jeff Daniels wrote Escanaba in da Moonlight a year after he starred in Dumb and Dumber and the movie’s influence is clearly felt. His comedy about a group of Michigan sportsmen on the first day of hunting season is crass, inane, crude, vulgar, gross and—like the aforementioned film—funny.

Director Argo Thompson gender-swapped the roles by replacing Daniels’ good ol’ boys with good ol’ girls, and stuck them in a cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Alberta (Sandra Ish) and her daughters Remy (Chandler Parrott-Thomas) and Ruby (Paige Picard) have gathered for their annual hunting trip. They’re joined by a family friend they call “The Jimmer” (Kimberly Kalember) who, after being abducted by aliens a while back, now sports something of a speech impediment.

While the opening of hunting season excites them all, Ruby is a bit worried. If she doesn’t bag a buck this trip, she’ll inherit the ignominious position of being the oldest family member to continuously come home empty-handed. The lengths she’s willing to go to to ensure that doesn’t happen involve things such as moose testicles and porcupine piss.

Yeah, Noël Coward it ain’t; but the ladies have fun with it.

Rating (out of 5): ★★★½

Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer, while set on Christmas Eve, has little to do with the holiday. It involves two brothers (John Craven, Edward McCloud), a couple of friends (Kevin Bordi, Anthony Abaté) and a stranger (Keith Baker) who end up in a poker game with very high stakes. There’s also a lot of drinking, cursing and fighting. Well, it is an Irish play.

McCloud and Baker played the same roles 10 years ago in a well-received production by the late, lamented Narrow Way Stage Company. Director David Lear reunites them and surrounds them with a group of actors who do well with characters who lead lives of not-so-quiet desperation. And that poor Christmas tree…

Rating (out of 5): ★★★★

Escanaba in da Moonlight runs through Dec. 15 at Left Edge Theatre. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. Thu–Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. $15–$42. 707.536.1620. The Seafarer runs through Dec. 21 at Main Stage West, 104 N. Main St., Sebastopol. 2nd and 4th Thursdays at 8pm; Fridays and Saturdays, 8pm; Sunday, 5pm. $15–$30. 707.823.0177.