Once upon a time, Santa Claus came to visit. The only survivor would like to tell you about it.
(Update 12/26: Info for the traditional New Year’s Day visit with Sugar Plum Gary is now up, here. It’s a pay-what-you-can show at Vermillion on Capitol Hill, starting at 6:30.)
Every December or so, and sometimes at surprise times throughout the year, a mysterious and slightly spooky character takes to Seattle stages dressed in red footie pajamas. He introduces himself and provides a bit of backstory: Some years ago, Santa Claus came to visit — bringing with him not the traditionally supposed merriment and joy, and treats and toys, but mayhem and carnage. From that visit, our affable guest, named Sugar Plum Gary, is the only survivor.
And Gary’s eager to talk. Almost immediately, he opens the floor. Does anybody have a question about Christmas?
It’s a curious, open-book, and slightly ominous invitation — you don’t quite know what you’re going to get. But then the questions start flowing, and with them the tales that expose all the truths behind our seasonal mythology. Topics that might not get much traction: Jesus, God, and anything religious, which Gary seems never to have heard of. (He might still journey into them, if that night’s questions present the invitation.) Pretty much anything else is fair game, and will turn into some sort of story that reveals bits of Gary’s world, which for him revolves around Christmas.
Not the merry one. The real one.
I’ve talked with local comedian/storyteller/weird-things-maker Emmett Montgomery about lots of things. But until recently, I’ve never talked with him about Sugar Plum Gary — who seasonally occupies his body — and the motivations that prompt Gary up on stage to pass along terrifying tales and tell-all wisdom in answer to people’s honest (if often misguided) questions about Christmas.
Among other ill-guided misconceptions, I’ve assumed Gary is something of a misanthrope. His personality — or, more likely, his preoccupation with death and destruction — certainly seems to suggest it.
But Montgomery has a different read — and based on the length of time he’s spent with the footie-pajamaed personality, I’d certainly trust him on the matter.
To Montgomery, Sugar Plum Gary is no misanthrope; he’s merely speaking his truth. His show is a demonstration of what happens when one person’s truths collide with what virtually everyone else believes, or has been taught to believe; a pervasive and popular mythology — here around the joys, or at least toys, of Christmas — versus a mysterious and unpopular set of believes derived from one person’s lived experience.
For Sugar Plum Gary, every day is Christmas. And every Christmas is equally terrifying.
Sugar Plum Gary takes the stage at 18th & Union through Christmas Eve. Every show is different. Appropriate for most adventurous ages, but geared toward grown-up ones.
And in the spirit of community & giving: “18th and Union and Sugar Plum Gary have also partnered with Be:Seattle and will be collecting essential needs items for our houseless neighbors that will be distributed to them directly. Consider bringing fresh socks, hygiene items, menstrual products, hats, gloves, hand warmers or anything else that can provide relief for those without.”
Sugar Plum Gary runs through 12/24 at 18th & Union in the Central District. Tickets are $13-22 (sliding scale for all), available here. Accessibility notes: restroom is gender-neutral, single-stall; theatre can be made wheelchair accessible with a ramp, but the restroom is not — please contact venue ahead of time to ensure smooth access.
Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.