Review: WHO'S HOLIDAY Hits Below the Belt at Pittsburgh CLO

CLO's adults-only Christmas comedy is a laugh riot

By: Dec. 04, 2023
Review: WHO'S HOLIDAY Hits Below the Belt at Pittsburgh CLO

It's fun to see a real-world couple become a creative duo who genuinely bring out the best in each other. For Pittsburgh audiences, that description instantly brings to mind Trey Compton and Lara Hayhurst, who as actors and creatives have been making their mark in the city for over a decade now. Compton's shows always have a few unexpected tricks up their sleeve, and Hayhurst is the kind of delightfully unpredictable comic performer that one-woman shows were made for. Together, their production of Who's Holiday is one to remember: one half Dr. Seuss, and one half Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

The comparison to John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask's famous "rock and roll monologue" about a washed-up gender-variant rock songwriter is no coincidence: Matthew Lombardo's solo play is definitely drawing on Hedwig Schmidt as inspiration for the now-alienated Cindy Lou Who. Lara Hayhurst embodies the trailer-dwelling quasi-elf, who has lived a long and storied life since her encounter with the Grinch at age three. Unfortunately, these escapades (sexual and otherwise) have made her a pariah among the conformist-minded Whos of Whoville, leading to her borderline exile in the trailer park. Kids vandalize her house. Friends make excuses to avoid her company. She doesn't deserve that treatment- does she? Well... it's complicated.

The scenic and projection design by Bryce Cutler is as full of surprises as anything else in the show; again and again Hayhurst pulls some unexpected prop or transforms something we've seen all evening into something else that fits the narrative. Sometimes this involves audience participation; Hayhurst is a master of working the crowd and interacting with audience members who are eithe rtoo enthusiastic or not enthusiastic enough when it comes to participating or prop play. "This isn't TV, I can see you," she improvised to the front row during one segment. (One of the pleasures of this show is seeing the moments that are clearly improvisatory and spontaneous erupt out of the otherwise rhymed script. It is very much shades of Hedwig and Rocky Horror in that regards.)

Hayhurst is a gifted impressionist as well as an actor, and this show gives her ample opportunity to do just that. She briefly embodies Bill Irwin's lockjawed Who from the Jim Carrey film, then has memorable bits later in the show as a hardened Yinzer criminal. She even gets to do a Britney Spears impersonation, recalling her work as Justin Timberlake in a past CLO production. It's a feast of creative chaos, lots of laughs, physical comedy and borderline standup, and Hayhurst knows how to dip left into sexy or right into gross at just the right moments. Nonetheless, her character and the show itself both have heart, and beneath the smut and the sight gags there's a genuinely affecting story of loneliness, isolation and guilt at the heart of the show. But don't worry, there are PLENTY of Grinch-dick jokes too. This ain't no It's a Wonderful Life, trust me.