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Review of
Jonathan M. Vick's
Kentucky Claus & The Redneck Elves

Kentucky Claus & The Redneck Elves:
Review by Eyal Goldshmid
Who'd have thought that a production titled Kentucky Claus and the Redneck Elves would turn out to be a well-told story of brotherhood. Certainly not this reporter. And while the show does contain some side-splitting (not to mention groan*able) comedy, as you'd expect from a work with the word "Kentucky" in its title, you walk away remembering it more for its solid, lovingly created characters than anything else. Who'd have expected such a thing?

Jonathan M. Vick as NATE

Jonathan Vick wrote the play in 1995, and since then he's been struggling to bring it to the stage. Now, some four years later, all of his efforts seem to have paid off. Kentucky Claus boasts a talented cast, plenty of intelligent dialogue, several inventive, witty situations and a welcoming and detailed set (built by Vick, who also directed the production) that makes fantastic use of Performance Space Orlando's limited space. It's evident that Vick has put a lot of hard work and time into this production, and it shows in just about every moment.

Ken Jordan as ZEKE

Vick stars at Nate, the eldest brother of the lot. His family suffered tragedy a year earlier when his parents died on Christmas Eve. Now he has been left to hold the fort. With him are his four brothers: the tempermental Zeke (Ken Jordan); the airhead Boon (Brian McKee); the appreciative Jake (Brett Nicholson); the wannabe Stuart (Anthony Michael Gobbi); and the innocent Blake (Bobby Aulgur).

Brian McKee as BOON

On Christmas Eve, these brother find themselves the vicims of their own laziness and familial tensions. Zeke believes Nate has slept with his girlfriend. Stuart is an alcoholic (a "nogaholic," according to the brothers because of his partiality for egg nog). Stuart and Jake dream of escaping Kentucky for L.A. stardom. And all of them try to keep the spirit of Christmas alive for Blake so that his innocence will persevere. Behind all of this, a major snow storm has hit, trapping the brothers' Christmas dinner in their shed. Their truck has some mechanical problems, which prohibits them from going to town to get their women. And they have made none of their holiday preparations.

Brett Nicholson as JAKE

As a solution, the brothers send Boon and Zeke out to kill a deer for dinner. Somewhere along the line, Nate falls into a raveen and loses his pants, a squirrel attaches itself to Boon's private parts, the truck explodes several times and plenty of fistfights occur. While in the woods, Boon and Zeke happen to shoot Santa Claus (or as the brothers know him, the Kentucky Claus) in the leg. When they bring the jolly one home to heal, the plot thickens exponentially. Scenes includes transvestites, jail break, romance, gun fire, gourmet cooking and the nativity of Christ. To make it any clearer would spoil the fun.

Anthony Gobbi as STUART

One of the treats in the show comes in watching these characters become more and more likeable with each passing second. Sure, they are rednecks and their actions often uphold the stereotypical redneck (such as the references to beastiality, to name but a few). But Vick's script knows how to flesh out his characters beyond that. These brothers are intelligent, good humored and heartful, even while they roam freely in their expected characteristics.

Bobby Aulgur and Jamie Garcia


The play is not perfect. At more than two and a half hours, it's certainly much too long, and sometimes it takes too much time in establishing a plot point that doesn't need further development. For example, the heart-to-hearts between Jake and Stuart grow tiresome by their third incarnation, and the concluding moments of the play are particularly slow, particularly since the audience knows how it will end. Some of the performances, too, lack spirit and charisma. Tina Mahler and Kevin Sario, as Megan and Kentucky Claus, respectively, serve their purpose in the plot but do little more to make their presence felt. Also, the performances of Jake and Stuart by Nicholson and Gobbi don't seemed fleshed out enough. Often, they speak with stilted words and mannerisms or are too softspoken.

Tina Mahler and Kevin Sario

as MEGAN and K.C.

But despite this, the production showcases some great comedic talents. Aulgur encapsulates Blake's innocence with every motion and word, from his wide eyes to his gentle voice. Jordan, as Zeke, shows that even the most mean-spirited brother can't help but be a good, loving person. McKee makes Boon a true pleasure to watch, from his goofy mannerisms to his often hysterical reactions to the events around him. Vick makes Nate a leader with plenty of fallicies, thus making him someone to both admire and relate to.

Vick's script, direction and sets show much promise and inventiveness, and he does a superb job when chaos reigns on stage. His play also holds a strong classical foundation in theater. He understands the intricacies and motions of the stage and knows how to properly fit his often madcap work to them. This is quite a skill that even some accomplished directors seem to miss. His script may still need some tightening, and some of his actors need to put a little more into their roles, but Kentucky Claus is still a welcome change from the other holiday fare going around these days. A solid piece of entertainment.