The holiday season is a time of family ritual – setting up Advent calendars, decking the halls, and reliving favorite stories. Whether you prefer “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” or “Eight Crazy Nights,” pretty much every household that celebrates the holiday has a seasonal narrative they enjoy, year after year.
Central America is light on snow and brick chimneys, but stories of Santa and Scrooge have saturated Costa Rican culture, and there is no shortage of holiday-themed theater. While all of the productions below are performed in Spanish, most of their plots should be as familiar as eggnog and holly. For a heartwarming and low-stress cultural experience, here are some excuses to visit a local theater this December. (No windshield-scraping required.)
No ballet is more beloved than “The Nutcracker,” that timeless tale of a young girl, a wooden figurine that transforms into a dashing soldier, and their evening of globetrotting adventure. The National Theater presents its sumptuous production of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, directed by Patricia Carreras and Maria Amalia Banners and starring mostly young performers and dance students. See “El Cascanueces” come alive on the National Theater’s refurbished new stage.
“El Cascanueces” will be performed Dec. 5-14 at The National Theater, downtown San José. Tue.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 11 & 5 p.m. ₡16,000-32,000 ($32-64). Info: National Theater website.
“A Christmas Carol”
At first, it doesn’t seem like Ebenezer Scrooge deserves a second chance. He’s mean, money-grubbing, and hates Christmas, so maybe he deserves to spend eternity dragging chains. But as Charles Dickens’ most famous novella tells it, Scrooge is actually just a decent old man tormented by his past. “Un Cuento de Navidad” receives its annual production at Teatro Espressivo, thanks to a stage adaptation by Paul Stebbings.
“Un Cuento de Navidad” continues through Dec. 21 at Teatro Espressivo, Tres Ríos. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m. ₡7,000-10,000 ($14-20). Info: Teatro Espressivo website.
“The Abominable Snowman”
What do Santa Claus, a magic clock, a monstrous Yeti, and a “Labyrinth of Solitude” have in common? They are all part of “El Ogro de las Nieves,” a whimsical family comedy at Teatro Triciclo. Famous for their slapstick and wordplay, Triciclo presents a North Pole pastiche that is bound to be hilarious (and heartwarming) whether you understand what’s happening or not. Catch this original holiday play directed by Magdiel Ramírez.
Dec. 7 & 14 at Teatro Triciclo, Avenida Escazú. Sundays, 11 a.m. ₡4,000 ($8). Info: Teatro Triciclo website.
“A Sack Full of Christmas”
One of the most successful children’s entertainers in Costa Rica, Juan Cuentacuentos (“John Tale-Teller”) performs a one-day engagement at the National Theater to relate legends of virgin births, wise men, and other things New Testament. “Navidad de Gangoche” refers to the burlap sack that has played such an important role in Costa Rican agriculture (and general culture). Juan Cuentacuentos is best known for his effortless guitar playing, clap-along ditties, and general hijinks.
“Navidad de Gangoche” will be performed Dec. 20 at The National Theater, downtown San José. 11 & 1 p.m. ₡2,000-4,000 ($4-8). Info: National Theater website.