Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Okay, Manny's just a musician with a great log cabin way up in the mountains. It's got a huge picture window looking east and is stocked with enough food to feed the 5000. He's taking time to relax and remodel the dream house, right?
Well, maybe - and maybe that giant Sequoia simply fell across the road during a storm on December 23, stranding 11 people, most of whose lives are emotionally stranded. And they have nothing in common but music.
They found the cabin by seeing a light in the window. Mmmm-hmmm. And as they trail in, Manny wanders in and out - doing what? Who knows. And he always knows when to wander, giving a husband and wife, or an adopted child and her grandfather, the chance to re-bond or, to extend the cabin-metaphor, re-model themselves.
They have time because Manny's crib has electricity but no TV or WiFi or "can you hear me now?" bars. And since the storm will rage till Christmas Day, they're left to their own devices and, a rarity in the age of social media, face-to-face contact.
But come on, could Manny, played with an understated sagacity by Leonard Patton, be the helping hand prayed for in the 12th century lyric, "O Come, Emanuel"?
Kerry Meads subtle script and Patton's knowing smile hint at if not the possibility, at least an intriguing similarity.
The suggestion's as tricky as Lamb's Players' other leap of faith: that someone can tap on the floor, or pluck a guitar, and the group spontaneously bonds - that word again - and sings holiday songs with mega-sophisticated arrangements: intricate harmonies, unexpected syncopation (as in Patton's conga drum-driven "O Holy Night"), and polished accompaniments.
Somehow they do. So maybe Manny does cast a spell, or the cabin does, or the season. Or, another possibility, Manny dreamed the whole thing.
Another question: where does Lamb's find so many unfamiliar but spirited holiday songs? They either write them: Chris O'Byron's "Just Say No to Snow"; Patton's "The Babe is King" and "Christmas on My Mind"; Jon Lorenz's "The Music of Christmas" and "The Best Part of Christmas is Loving You"; or they arrange them: Nathan Peirson's guitar verson of "Joy to the World"; and several by Lorenz, a maestro, who weaves the traditional with the contemporary, often for this show with Caribbean-based inflections. The music makes the show.
It's said that playwrights shouldn't direct their work. Kerry Meads has done both well. Her ensemble cast has no slouches. They play so many different instruments they constitute, in effect, quite a back-up band.
Properties designer Julie Lorenz has filled Mike Buckley's appealing, two-story set with telling details and what must be, during the run, a near-infinite supply of Oreo cookies.
Lamb's Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Avenue, Coronado, playing through December 30.