Waiting up for Santa

Thu. December 13, 2007 12:00 AM
by Jason P. Freeman

"Bourbon," Cerda says. Hell in a Handbag Productions (HIAH) Executive Director, and Playwright, David Cerda leaves liquor, and the recent issue of Hustler Magazine, for his Santa Claus every Christmas Eve.

"Dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration…of popular culture…" HIAH is the camp king of Chicago. With theater and musical productions like Caged Dames, Poseidon! An Upside-down Musical and The Birds, the theater company is famed for its parody of film noir—much like its take on well known Christmas claymation caricatures. Most plays are originally written by Cerda.

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Handbag's staple holiday show, Cerda's Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer. "I immediately related to the original story as a child," says Cerda, "as did any kid who felt ‘different.'"

In HIAH's North Pole, jolly ‘ole Santa is the most salacious of saints. "He's a fascist, capitalist, power-hungry, misogynist, white corporate American male stereotype," says Cerda. Mrs. Claus is too boozed-up to bake brownies. The elves are dominated by a leather daddy. The dental-driven Herbie just isn't gay enough. The candy canes are likely laced with cocaine, and Rudolph doesn't have a very shiny nose. All the other reindeer laugh and call him names because Rudolph likes to festoon his fleece with a little feminine flare—the show was an instant classic the day it debuted a decade ago.

In one scene, Rudolph flings from his mother's womb and is immediately drawn to her scarf. "Gucci!" he gleams.

In celebration of this milestone production's anniversary, HIAH also hosts the late night comedy Santa Claus and Other Lies. "It's a sort of cabaret," says Cerda, "though the stars, [Jason Grimm and Trista Smith] don't like to call it a cabaret. It's fabulous!"

Rudolph... runs at the Bailiwick Repertory Theater until December 30. Santa Claus and Other Lies, also at the Bailiwick, runs for a limited engagement and opens December 8. For tickets and show times, visit the HIAH website at

Join the slumber party and be a bedfellow, contact Jason.