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Grinch and Bear It

[whitespace] And to All a Good Night
Naughty and Nice: Burglars Richard Montgomery and Jim Johnson are on Santa's list in 'And to All a Good Night.'

'And to All a Good Night' milks laughs and morals

By Heather Zimmerman

FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS, City Lights Theater Company has avoided the roster of traditional holiday favorites. This year is no exception, although Santa does make a rare visit to City Lights' stage in Buck Busfield's comedy And to All a Good Night. Up to its sugarplums in screwball comedy, the play works best on a lightly humorous level. Unfortunately, underscoring the comedy is an uneasy assortment of bathos and moralizing.

On Christmas Eve, two burglars, Jicko and Driggit (Jim Johnson and Richard Montgomery), are playing Grinch, breaking into houses and stealing presents. But woe to these criminals, because they have just broken into the home of Calvin (Stephen Winton-Henry), a self-righteous minister, and his troubled family. Jicko and Driggit overhear each family member in the midst of a personal crisis: Calvin's wife, Meredith (Rachel Martin), has become fed up with her June Cleaver role; Calvin and Meredith's teen daughter, Jen (Kimy Martinez), has heard her biological clock ticking at an early age; and Calvin himself seeks to lead a larger "flock."

Calvin discovers Jicko and Driggit and promptly tries to convert them, asserting he can make them over into "good" men if they repent. Busfield devotes much of the play to the concepts of good and bad people--Jicko and Driggit debate the true meaning of a bad person, and Calvin doesn't hesitate in his definition of a good one. In fact, society's tendency toward simplistic pigeonholing of people as either good or bad is rehashed so much that by the time Santa (Arthur D. Sifflet) arrives to patch things up, it comes as no surprise when he explains that there are not, in fact, people who are all bad or all good, but that everyone is a little of both.

That the play attempts to be humanity-affirming is particularly appropriate for the holidays, but And to All a Good Night is much more in its element when it sticks purely with comedy. Busfield has scripted some very adept who's-on-first-style sequences of rapid-fire dialogue that are clever and lots of fun, but when he takes to moralizing, his arguments are as black-and-white as the very narrow-mindedness he criticizes.

And to All a Good Night plays Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 7pm through Dec. 19 at City Lights Theater Company, 529 S. Second St., San Jose. Tickets are $12-$15; 408/295-4200.

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From the December 3-9, 1998 issue of Metro.

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