Rebecca Northan gives an early Christmas present to the Centaur Theater

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The creator of the improvisation hit Blind Date returns with All I Want for Christmas, a scripted comedy about chaos in Santa’s mailroom.

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Last seen with a red nose at the Centaur Theater for her wildly popular improvised clown show Blind Date, Rebecca Northan may have another use for this appendix this year. His latest comedy, All I Want for Christmas (performed at the Centaur from November 16 to December 5), takes place in the mail room of Santa’s Workshop, days before Rudolph and his pals are hitched to the sled.

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Rudolph, however, might not have a clue of the action, given that his boss won’t either. Northan keeps the secrets of the play closely, but one of the conditions for writing it was that Santa Claus should not make an appearance.

Speaking to the Montreal Gazette in the Centaur gallery space, Northan (who directs but does not appear in his fully scripted and non-improvised play) explains that these stipulations came from the Highland Arts Theater in Cape Breton. , who was looking for a Christmas gift to raise spirits last year during the pandemic.

“I don’t remember what month it was because the pandemic months are all mushy,” says Northan, “but a friend of mine, Wesley Colford, who runs the HAT, posted a Facebook post saying: “I need a Christmas comedy, preferably Canadian, preferably written by a woman, with three actors or less. And definitely no Santa Claus on stage.

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Northan says his “improvisational brain” kicked in. “I work best with restrictions, and this was the idea that came to my mind: What if a surprise package arrives in Santa’s mail room? “

Being in the Atlantic bubble, the HAT was able to premiere All I Want for Christmas last year to a desperate audience in person looking for a diversion.

“It was a big part of our discussion,” Northan says, “that we just needed to get away and really laugh our ass off.”

So it’s fitting that Centaur’s return to live Christmas entertainment, in person, two years after Ronnie Burkett’s wickedly funny Little Dickens, will be Northan’s wacky and heartwarming gift to audiences.

Amelia Sargisson, last seen in Centaur, brilliantly embodies a comically naive Eve in Paradise Lost.

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“I play Ginger, who is an elf,” explains Sargisson, joining Northan in the gallery. “Ginger has had various misadventures with previous job postings at the North Pole. And this day is his first in the mail room. She lives a lot in the shadow of her distinguished elder, Nog (played by Gabe Maharjan), who is training her to this new position, and it’s a lot of pressure for her. She’s only 115 years old, so she’s still a little green.

The ultimate in elf stories is, of course, Elf, the beloved 2003 film starring Will Ferrell. Did this have an influence on the play?

“I love Elf,” says Northan, “although I don’t think we borrowed any other than to say that we are adding to the mythology of what is possible in Elf culture and North Pole culture. Ginger is a bit rough around the edges, so I would say she looks nothing like Will Ferrell in Elf, because he’s really like an elven essence wholeheartedly on two legs, whereas Ginger isn’t that. .

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Sargisson intervenes: “But there is, I would say, a certain overlap in the indomitable buoyancy of these two characters. But in Ginger’s case, it may be hiding something else.

Could be? Once again, the two are keen on keeping things a secret for now, including the role that third actress, Mariah Inger will play. “Mariah is definitely part of the surprise,” Northan teases.

As with the lot of theater artists over the past 20 months, Sargisson and Northan have found ways to adapt to drastically changed circumstances. Sargisson took the opportunity to audition, with success, for television and film, and rework a play, Fer Shame (“about a nun on the run”), which she wrote for the new initiative of writing from Centaur, Catalyst @ Centaur.

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Northan also found clever ways to adapt his craft, including Undiscovered Sonnets, a sort of online game show that involved writing impromptu sonnets for real couples, and Sidewalk Scenes, which saw Northan and his team lead up to ‘to the porches to perform.

Despite Northan’s comedic background, she is quick to point out that All I Want for Christmas, which is billed as suitable for ages 12 and up, also has its serious side.

“It’s crammed with all kinds of things that I encountered during the pandemic,” she explains. “You touch on perimenopause, issues of identity, what it means to feel really alone when you’re around people.

“There are so many little Easter eggs. For example, she said turning to Sargisson, I didn’t even tell you guys that: it is mentioned in passing that Santa Claus has to do the whole season blindfolded. It happened to me. I accidentally Krazy stuck my eyes closed.

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It turns out Northan was fixing jewelry, didn’t follow the directions on the tube, and ended up spraying glue in her eyes, leaving her blindfolded for three days. Which is absolutely no laughing matter, but it is Is a bit like a burlesque routine that an improvising clown could come up with.

Which brings us to Northan’s most famous creation, Mimi, the lovable clown from Blind Date. The show, which involves bringing a member of the audience on stage to be Mimi’s date, won Northan a Dora Mavor Moore Award and was celebrating his 10th year of global success just before the pandemic.

“Mimi is absent,” Northan admits sadly. “In a COVID world, I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to do Blind Date again. There are so many things that should be taken into consideration. When Mimi mingles in the lobby, does she ask people to walk into a room with a nurse and take a quick COVID test in case they end up on stage?

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And then there’s the issue of the climaxing kiss and intimate slow dance of the show. Northan pauses for a moment, then applies the first rule of improvisation of always choosing Yes.

“There are always clownish ways to solve these problems,” she says.

IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE

All i want for christmas is presented from Nov. 16 to Dec. 5. at the Centaur Theater, 453, rue St-François-Xavier. Tickets: $ 67; under 30 $ 38; seniors $ 57. Dial 514-288-3161 or visit centaurtheatre.com.

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