‘Redneck Christmas’ is great start for holiday season

Jack Petro
Jack Petro

With Thanksgiving still two weeks away, Wal-Mart is already setting up aisles of Christmas decorations.  Not to be upstaged, the Bay Street Players of Eustis are getting their own jump on the holidays with the North Central Florida premier of the light comedy “A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas.”

A snow storm strands a truck driver in a diner in a small southern town.  It is Christmas Eve and he (Patrick Ward) narrates the story.  The owner of the diner Lou (Nicole Castro), waitress Darlene (Lauren Morgan), and cook Barbie Jo (Elaine Yablonski) commiserate about their male counterparts who have chosen to use Christmas as an excuse to hunt, drink a lot of beer, and tell stories  As darkness approaches, the storm closes in on their hunting lodge.

As storm strengthens a young woman (Victoria Puglisi) enters the diner and nearly collapses.  She is pregnant.

You know where this story is going.  The trio in the lodge Bill (Daniel Roscoe), Jimmy (Chris Stephens), and Dave (Adam Curtis) unwittingly become the ‘not-so-wise’ men.  The shed behind the lodge is the manger sans animals.

The cast of "Redneck Christmas."
The cast of “Redneck Christmas.”

The true miracle of this story is that the play got written at all.  Playwright Kris Bauske attended the opening Sunday Matinee with her family.  The author, charming and loquacious, was thrilled to see Bay Street do her play which premiered in December 2009 at the Lakeside Theatre in Orlando.  So far over 30 theaters have chosen to do “Redneck Christmas” and the play is being offered now through Samuel French.

Bauske has a BS in English from Michigan and lists an extensive resume in technical writing.  She became inspired by the idea of a Christmas story and writing the script became an obsession. The completed manuscript is monumental achievement since playwriting is considered the most difficult of all literary disciplines.  Bauske and the success of her first play were the subject of a feature article in the Orlando Sentinel in early November.

Narrators are a usually a death knell for new playwrights, but “Redneck…” is an exception.  Veteran performer Ward knows every move and inflection to keep you interested and is perfect for this essential part.

The opening scene is frenetic and needs to be slowed down a bit to be sure the audience understands all the connections between the characters.  In the next scene, the males at the hunting lodge are at exactly on the correct tempo.

There are four scenes use a single set.  Lighting is used to accentuate each of the locations.  The ‘manger’ scene is the least specific although there is no question that the cameo role of Mark (Austin Langford) helps with the birthing.  The illusion of a snow storm needs work.

Do not miss this holiday package by the Bay Street Players.  This is like seeing the pre-Broadway run of Neil Simon’s “Come Blow Your Horn.”  It only happens once.

“Redneck Christmas…” directed by Brendon Rogers runs through November 30.  For ticket information, prices, dates and theater directions visit their Web Site at www.baystreetplayers.org.

Villager Jack Petro reviews local theater for Villages-News.com