Deuce Theatre’s Humbug Holiday Hour is the most disorganized holiday show in town, and that’s part of its magic. Co-creators Michael Catangay and Andrea Studley have built (or stumbled upon) something that is rarely seen anywhere else in town: a play that, on purpose, feels unrehearsed, raw, and vulnerable. In essence, Humbug ends up being the stage equivalent to reality television. Deuce gives the audience a product that is funny, awkward, and may or may not be scripted.
The stars of the show, the Hackensack Candy Cane Kickers, are a band of bargain basement Rockettes on a one-stop holiday spectacular tour. Played by Tracee Clapper, Camila Frausto, Jessica Spaid, and Andrea Studley, you’ve likely never seen four more different or ridiculous young women onstage at once. Michael Catangay as your host Gilbert and Latisha Wright Holloway as Ellie the stage manager round out the cast. Everyone comes together like, well, a cast of The Real World.
The lighting was poor. The house didn’t open on time. There were no programs. Microphones dropped in and out and all music was played through a boom box. Normally these are signs that a show requires much more rehearsal time, technical support, or funding. Here, however, it all ends up working. The cast yelled at each other before the show about these problems and others, coming across as spoiled divas before the show had officially begun. But had it? The confusion over what’s a part of the show and what’s not clouded the opening. Holloway’s awkwardness during her opening address to the audience (there were tears) was either a really unfortunate house speech or the best-performed piece of acting this year. You decide. But once you open up to the side of you that enjoys catching marathons of [insert VH1, MTV, or Bravo show here] and just enjoy the musical and dance numbers, you’ll start enjoying yourself.
The show includes some of the best (the absolute best) audience interaction I have seen since Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center. The cast decides to go bold in its decisions to include the audience in the fun, and it works incredibly well. Whatever there is to be said about this play, there is definite fun to be had. Any veteran of a live response Rocky Horror will feel right at home, and everyone will be surprised by the show’s finale, no matter how much audience interaction you think you’ve seen.
The show isn’t perfect, and it may achieve its biggest hits by sheer accident. Life isn’t perfect. Neither is theater. Sometimes that’s the point, and sometimes that’s why we watch.