Review of Who’s Holiday at Stray Dog Theatre

    Stray Dog Theatre has a history of counterprogramming in December. The company presents an antidote to seasonal good cheer for theatergoers who have had their fill of traditional holiday fare. Sometimes the alternative is serious. This year it’s a satire.

    The play is Who’s Holiday, a play for one actor by Matthew Lombardo. He is best known nationally for Looped, in which Valerie Harper played Tallulah Bankhead on Broadway. In St. Louis, he is remembered for High, a vehicle for Kathleen Turner that came to the Rep before a brief Broadway run.

    Who’s Holiday is a spoof of the Dr. Seuss classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Who in the title is Cindy Lou Who, the adorable toddler who encountered the Grinch when he was robbing her home. In Lombardo’s version, the middle-aged Cindy Lou is a far cry from her earlier self.

    The action takes place on Christmas Eve in a trailer on Mount Crumpit, the Grinch’s old haunt. Cindy Lou is waiting is for the guests she has invited to a party. After noticing the people in the audience, she decides to tell them her life story, which is a tale for adults only.

    Dr. Seuss Enterprises objected to Lombardo’s raunchy portrayal of Cindy Lou and tried to the quash the play as a violation of copyright. Lombardo fought back in court and won, arguing that his parody was protected as a fair use of the original.

    Stray Dog clearly understands what its audience wants. The socially distanced production of Who’s Holiday was sold out before opening night.

    Lombardo wrote the play in Seuss-like verse. At Stray Dog, Polizzi handles it brilliantly under Gary Bell’s direction. She builds a vivid, believable character instead of overemphasizing rhymes and rhythms.

    The right atmosphere for the production is evoked by Josh Smith’s scenic design, Megan Bates’s costume design, Tyler Duenow’s lighting, and Justin Been’s sound.

    Given the vagaries of the times we live in, Stray Dog has engaged Sarajane Alverson as a standby. This precaution is wise for a show with only one actor. In a classy move, Stray Dog is giving Alverson two assured opportunities to go on as Cindy Lou. For these performances, Polizzi will stand by.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    Photo by John Lamb