Dec 5, 2019
by Jeanie K. Smith , San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
It might be true that everyone who grew up with a Christmas tradition can remember the precise moment when they quit believing that Santa Claus was real. It’s equally true that parents can remember when their child found out, or was told, that Santa is not an actual person and those presents under the tree didn’t magically appear courtesy of a chimney-hopping bearded old man. But there’s no manual to say exactly when that should happen, and the father in Polar Bears does everything he can to delay disbelief as long as possible. An endearing script with both humor and pathos pays tribute to the holiday and parenting, running for just a handful of performances at Left Edge Theatre.
David (Mark Bradbury), father of two young children Jenna and Andy, is determined to make Christmas magic last, at least until his children figure out on their own that Santa is just a lovable legend. David remembers his precise moment of disbelief when he was just 4, and wants his own children to enjoy the magic and mystery far longer, creating elaborate rules and ruses, treasure hunts and tricks to keep them under Santa’s spell.
When family tragedy strikes, grief threatens to overwhelm Christmas traditions, but David doubles his efforts to make the holiday meaningful and filled with Santa. Waging an uphill battle filled with somber and sunny surprises, David must come to terms with reality — his very real children — and his own holiday dreams. Gentle humor throughout mitigates the melancholy, creating an amusing antidote for holiday doldrums.
Bradbury brings his excellent acting skills to the role, mimicking his children, department store Santas, and David’s storytelling father with aplomb. Opening night felt as though he still hadn’t settled into the character fully; a thorough professional, he will no doubt blossom into the role with future performances.
This is the fourth iteration of local playwright David Templeton’s popular play, and his second time directing it. The script could use tightening in mid-section, but its overall warmth and charm carries a meaningful theme and sweet holiday spirit.
In only 75 minutes, Polar Bears can definitely help put you in the mood for tree-trimming and baking cookies for the Santa in your house.
By David Templeton, Presented by Left Edge Theatre
Through Dec. 15, 2019
Wed at 8:00pm, Sat at 4:00pm, Sun at 7:00pm
Studio Theatre, Luther Burbank CFA
50 Mark West Springs Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Photos by Katie Kelley
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