Amidei Brothers Cartage Company, at Cafe Voltaire.
For those of us who make a habit of Christmas, and even those of us who simply have to shop and endure the songs and lights and family dysfunction of the holidays, the twinkling shadow of December 25 looms large. Geoff and Brian Amidei propose to mock and heal that seasonal anxiety in Lingering Christmas Decorations.
What begins as a battle between two brothers stranded in Chicago on Christmas Eve over whether or not to celebrate Christmas ends in an improbable ghost story that reconciles them, leading to a quiet celebration of family connections. The benevolent haunting, told mostly through narration interrupted by flashback enactments, is overwritten enough to lose its chill early on and to be overpowered by its own sweetness in the end: it would have been more successful if the Amideis had integrated the irony of the initial fight into the flashbacks.
Instead of pushing their work into presentational melodrama, the pair should have trusted the bare-bones theatricality of their interaction and simply told the story while untangling the decorations: off-the-wall references to bowling, Scrooge, The Grinch That Stole Christmas, and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" mix nicely with the familiar sight of snarled strands of blinking lights and wry, sometimes predictable references to consumerism and recycling. Without the ghost story, the Amideis' smart-ass literariness would have had a better chance of carrying the odd, difficult contradictions of common sense and sentimentality that haunt this play and the Christmas season itself.