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Santa’s Helper

Remaining performances:
Wednesday, July 21, at 10:15 p.m.
Friday, July 23, at midnight

They say: Jack, a child molester, kidnaps the eight-year-old Jim on Christmas. But haunted by old memories, Jack decides to redeem himself, playing into Jim’s fantasy of being Santa’s helper. Visiting Jack’s past, present, and future, they search for answers and forgiveness.

Erin’s Take: Child molestation: It’s extremely challenging and ambitious subject matter for anyone, let alone a college student. Cassady Kay began writing ‘Santa’s Helper’ last year in a playwriting class at the College of William and Mary. Using Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ as a template, Kay explores the theme of redemption through the past and present of a child molester and one of his victims.

In the opening scene, eight-year-old Jimmy (Jarrett Ley) is abducted on Christmas Eve by Jack (Joel White), a child molester in Santa’s clothing. Jimmy, under the impression that Jack is really Santa, expresses to Jack that he’d like to be his helper, assisting him in passing out gifts. Jack feels conflicted: his impulses are rearing their ugly heads, but he’s also experiencing a crisis of conscience. Jack takes Jimmy on a trip to the home of one of his victims, a 14-year-old girl, Margie (Maggie Seegers). Both Margie and her mother, Loretta (Chloe Lewis), have been depending on Jack emotionally and financially. Jimmy witnesses as Jack tries to break off his relationship with the mother and daughter.

Jimmy returns home to his family before the night is over, physically unharmed but deeply emotionally scarred. Jack is put on trial and goes to prison. We’re introduced to another of Jack’s victims, Adam (Eric Nold). This scene is made extremely confusing both by the introduction of a new character and by the ambiguity of what’s real and what’s not. For example, Jack would speak even when the lawyer was addressing Jimmy; was this an expression of Jack’s internal thoughts or was he really saying those things?

Adam, though, turns out to be an extremely pivotal character—as Jack’s first victim, we see the process of how a child molester acts on his urges for the first time. Adam also gives us some insight as to how self-perpetuating the act of child molestation is—not only does Jack end up in prison, so does Adam—where he exacts his revenge on Jack.

Though this dark play is not without its problems (the confusing courtroom scene, the implausible coincidence of Jimmy and Margie ending up together fifteen years later), it’s a sensitive treatment of a difficult subject, with some really stellar performances. Joel White gives a nuanced and courageous performance as Jack. Chloe Lewis shines as Jimmy’s mother and as Loretta—she’s only a rising senior at William and Mary, but she expresses a gravity well beyond her years. And Eric Nold is fantastic as Adam—he’s equally convincing as the innocent 12-year-old and as the inmate out for blood.

See it if: You want to see some excellent young actors in an accomplished play by an ambitious young playwrite.

Skip it if: You like your Christmas stories happy, or if you have kids in tow.