Christmas and cactuses don’t generally go together, but that’s part of the point of Olympia Little Theatre’s “A Christmas Cactus,” opening Friday (Dec. 2).
The noir comedy takes inspiration from “A Christmas Carol,” and not only in its title. It follows the adventures of private detective Cactus O’Riley, who took over the business of a certain Jake Marley, now dead.
Marley, it seems, loved Dickens, and the dead-as-a-doornail detective’s collection of Dickens novels and bust of Dickens play a part in the proceedings.
Eliot Byerrum’s 1995 play also makes reference to other aspects of the classic holiday tale, but no one is Scroogelike, and there are no visits from ghosts of past, present or future.
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Instead, “A Christmas Cactus” is a detective story in which the hard-boiled detective is female; her loyal assistant is male.
The show has a lot going on: There’s a mystery, revolving around a pair of escaped convicts looking for Marley. It seems the late gumshoe framed one of them for embezzlement.
There are silly antics. One character’s mother is led to believe that the goings-on are all part of a murder mystery party.
There’s a bit of romance. “What’s a comedy without some love?” said Erin Quinn Valcho, who plays Cactus.
“It’s really fun to play off each other and come up with new things we can do to make people laugh,” Valcho added. “My goal is to have everyone leave the theater with a smile on their face.”
And the whole thing is set on Christmas Eve.
“It’s a really fun script and sort of offbeat,” said Kendra Malm, the play’s director and the theater company’s artistic manager. “It’s a modern film-noir screwball comedy.”
The set-at-the-holiday play that’s not really about the holidays has proven a good way to go for the theater, she said. Last year’s “The Game’s Afoot (or Holmes for the Holidays)” also combined comedy and mystery with literary references.
“We got some good feedback about that one,” Malm said. “We’ve tended to do best when we do some sort of Christmas-themed comedy.
“The holiday show is usually one of our best sellers, anyway.”
A Christmas Cactus
What: Olympia Little Theatre presents Eliot Byerrum’s mystery-comedy about a private detective facing complications both professional and personal.
When: 7:25 p.m. Friday (Dec. 2), Saturday, Dec. 8-10 and 15-17, with matinees at 1:55 p.m. Dec. 11 and 18.
Where: Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia.
Information: 360-786-9484, olympialittletheatre.org.