Remember the old movie "Sunset Boulevard" about fading silent-movie star Norma Desmond?
What does that have to do with Christmas, or PB&J Theatre's Factory production of "Sleigh," I hear you ask.
Well, there's a famous line in that movie where Norma (Gloria Swanson) hisses, "We didn't need dialogue, we had faces!"
Fans of the PB&J Theatre Factory style of comedy will get the connection now, but for the uninitiated, let me tell you that watching the faces of the actors — who don't use any dialogue — is a delightful Christmas treat.
Troupe leader Brandon Roberts is the master of silly walks and hangdog expressions. He also makes a pretty darn funny Christmas tree. (Yes, he plays a tree — multiple trees, actually.)
Ana Eligio has a mouth hinged like a Muppet's. (That's a compliment, really.) When she's excited, she's really excited. Terrence Yip is blessed with that beautiful lack of shame that graces the best comedians: He jumps up and down with glee like a giggling schoolgirl (again, a compliment) or strips down to his snowman-patterned boxers with nary a blush.
Lanky Joshua Siniscalco thrusts his jaw forward as a strangely sinister Christmas tree salesman, or has his face aquiver, mouth flapping silently, as an elderly shop owner locked in a battle for sales with Becky Eck. Her eyes gleam as she schemes against her rival, and when she suffers a defeat her pursed mouth demonstrates where the phrase "spitting nails" comes from.
Together the five prance, sidle, gallivant and whirl through a mix of stories with holiday themes: Post office employees go above and beyond to get an off-track Christmas card to its rightful recipient, a TSA official sucks the joy out of holiday travel, and the rival shopkeepers battle to sell their bells and whistles oblivious to a poor street musician trying to earn some spare change from passersby.
The underlying humor stems from the fact we've all encountered these situations: the person who holds up the airport security line by triggering the metal-detector alarm, the moment all the postal workers seem to simultaneously go on break, and most distressing: that panicky instant you realize you forgot to send someone a Christmas card.
This is gentle humor, suitable for children but adults will find plenty to chuckle, or downright guffaw, at too.
In perhaps the best nod to the holidays, there are even multiple heartwarming endings to the various story threads — the kind of emotional scenes that had the opening-night audience erupt in a chorus of "awwww" and would bring a smile to the face of even Scrooge himself.
•What: 'Sleigh,' a comedy from PB&J Theatre Factory
•Length: 1:35, including intermission
•When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays; through Dec. 18
•Where: Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St., Orlando
•Tickets: $20; $15 students
•Online: OrlandoShakes.orgCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times