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‘Stocking’ not stuffed with substance

Las Vegas Little Theatre’s “Stocking Stuffers” is a show that lives up to its name. It’s small-scaled, short, slight, not totally deprived of quality, but unlikely to create much of a stir.

Author James Venhaus gives us five vignettes (the whole thing is over in less than an hour) that have modern, adult Christmas themes.

Example: A man (Jerrame Glenn) is seen in a room buttoning his shirt while a beautiful woman (Leah Kreitz) dressed as a Santa’s helper tells him to send “the next one” in. The next male (Jeremy Nino) is ready for his bounty, but the woman winds up being an apparent amateur psychologist who teaches men the real meaning of Christmas.

Although there’s no sexual contact, the man, in the process of his frantic condition, has unbuttoned his shirt. When he’s cured — and comes to understand how much he loves his wife — he buttons up and is told to send the next one in. Get it? Despite our first impressions, she’s not a naughty woman at all. Some would call this reversal clever. I’d call it contrived.

And so it is with the other slices of life that contain a few laughs, but little substance. The writing always seems to be on the verge of saying something profound, but it never quite makes it.

Director Justy Hutchins stretches the evening by inserting carols, intentionally (and humorlessly) badly sung. There are sprinklings of talent among the six-member cast who play multiple roles.

Derick Swinson is moving as a man spending his first Christmas away from his ex-wife.

Nino and Amanda Kraft (as a receptionist who can’t deal with constantly ringing phones) are charming, but their performances are overscaled. They seem to be playing to a third balcony in a tiny, maybe 35-seat theater. The uncredited, uncreative Christmas atmosphere set deserves no credit.

The show is so brief, it cries out for a companion piece. In the end, we’re asked to stand and sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” which, perhaps, is supposed to encourage the audience’s forgiveness for the mini-production’s lack of quality and quantity.

Sometimes, even during the Christmas season, forgiveness is not a good thing.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat @aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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