Don’t spare the tomatoes for ‘Santa Claus vs. the Martians’

Scott Roberts (yeah, he’s the robot), Nicole Unger and Ben Tucker are ready to have some tomatoes thrown their way during performances of ‘Santa Claus vs. the Martians’.
Photo: Michael Close

The Details

Santa Claus vs. the Martians
Three and a half stars
Through December 23
11:30 p.m., $10
Onyx Theatre, 732-7225

Santa Claus vs. The Martians, playing at the Onyx Theatre through December 23, is a hilarious holiday cocktail of camp, audience participation and WTF-ness, with enough laughs to make you wonder if Santa spiked that bowl full of jelly.

The play, adapted by director John Tomasello from one of the worst movies of all time, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, goes something like this: Martian children are too passive. Some Martians think this means they need more discipline, others think they need more fun. Fun wins out. And as everyone knows, the best way to ensure kids have fun is to kidnap Santa Claus and bring him to Mars, where his toys can bring joy to everyone.

But don’t worry about that. You don’t need to follow the plot; what you need is a good throwing arm. In addition to cranking up the camp, Tomasello has added the genius touch of passing out soft, plush “tomatoes” pre-show, and encouraging the audience to throw them at the performers with as much force and glee as they can muster. The comedic bliss that comes from hurling toys at performers during ludicrously awful exposition is not to be underestimated. You really haven’t lived until you’ve seen an ancient martian mystic bobbing and weaving to avoid getting hit with plush tomatoes while staying perfectly in character.

Deepening the glee of the show is a mischievous, DIY sensibility: Automatic space doors that “whoosh” open, a polar bear designed by a Furry and a truly majestic (in a made-out-of-parts-from-Home-Depot kinda way) ’50s martian attack robot. But the sweet spot is still watching the actors deal with the twin horrors of wretched source material and an unrelenting barrage of soft plush balls. Maybe it’s the lack of pressure, but the actors commit wonderfully to the absurdity and find bits (not to mention as much risqué physical comedy as possible) to keep the humor alive. The true hero here, though, is the Spirit of Christmas, which shines through—ah, who am I kidding? It’s the plush tomatoes. Go, have fun and laugh yourself silly this Christmas.


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