A Noir Christmas at Olympia Little Theatre

by Christian Carvajal for OLY ARTS

“Jake Marley was dead,” says director Kendra Malm, adding with a wink, “to begin with.”

It’s a measure of the familiarity of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas that Malm can drop that literary allusion so casually. In A Christmas Cactus, presented this Yuletide season at Olympia Little Theatre, the narrative’s a bit more convoluted, even shadier—in a word, noir. “It’s a takeoff on Dickens and film noir,” Malm explains, “so you’ve got the hard-boiled detective, the con on the run.”

In this present-day, comic mystery by playwright Eliot Byerrum, “Marley was the private eye,” says Malm, “who sent up the escaped convict, who comes breaking into his successors’ office on Christmas Eve looking for vindication. The successor is Cactus O’Riley,” a redheaded private eye portrayed by Erin Quinn Valcho.

The story gets even twistier from there, but rest assured, A Christmas Cactus is still suitable for audience members of all ages. “It is a fun, family-friendly show,” Malm promises. “It’s not too complicated for kids to follow, but still has enough funny, inside references for adults to enjoy.” So what drew Malm to this particular story? “It’s always hard to find a good Christmas show,” she acknowledges. “There’s lots of them out there, but they tend to fall into certain categories…You get the heartwarming dramas, and you have your choice of the classics.” With a shrug she names the inevitable: “A Christmas Carol.” A Christmas Cactus, on the other hand, is a witty take on Dickens’ standby, with, as Malm says, “a Christmas flavor to it, without anyone feeling overwhelmed in sugarplums.”

What: A Christmas Cactus

Where: Olympia Little Theatre,
1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia

When: 7:25 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays, Dec. 2-17;
1:25 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 11 and 18

How much: $9-$15

Learn more: 360-786-9484 | OLT tickets

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