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Sacramento 1/9

SACRAMENTO--The weather outside may be frightful in Buck Busfield's Baby, It's Cold Outside, but onstage things are for the most part delightful in the B Street Theatre's annual world-premiere holiday-flavored offering. Though Busfield, who also directs, hasn't completely fleshed out the questionable motivations for his characters' actions in what is undeniably a quirky, unpredictable, and totally frothy and fun Christmastime confection, 'tis the season after all for over-the-top suspension of disbelief. One of the greatest leaps the audience is asked to make is that any man--let alone smarmy, leisure-suit-wearing car mechanic Bobbie (Greg Alexander)--would abandon the uber-attractive Leslie (the delicious Elisabeth Nunziato) right before Christmas. Even dressed-down in her baggy penguin flannel pajamas, she exudes more wattage than the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

But that's where the story starts, with the dejected Leslie mixing a comforting but joyless yuletide cocktail of Tylenol and gin when her solitude is interrupted by would-be home-invader Adam (Jason Kuykendall). Credit Nunziato (and Busfield) for reining in her sex appeal to play the amusingly apathetic victim who is so all-consumed by her lover's leaving that she is completely unaware that her biggest problem may be greater than celebrating New Year's Eve solo.

Adam is no career criminal, however, and he is somewhat at a loss to cope with not just an unwilling participant to his foolproof plan, but an uncaring one as well. In a way, Kuykendall's Adam is as clueless and self-absorbed as Nunziato's Leslie, and both are wonderful playing somewhat hapless nitwits. You feel completely for Leslie--although you wonder why such an obviously beautiful and successful woman would ever hook up with such a slimeball as the lying and conniving Bobbie. You also care about Adam, whose crime isn't motivated by greed, but by a higher, if kind of loopy, reason.

Alexander, the B Street's longtime go-to guy for a comedy infusion push, once again proves he is Sacramento's most uninhibited comic actor. His motto of "one can never appear too foolish" is in evidence here, as his always smiling Bobbie continues the show's theme of "denial is everything" by attempting to fast-talk his way out of his disappearance, as well as the appearance of a fetching floozy (Lowrey Raines) on his arm when he returns. Alexander is simply priceless.

The entire cast (including Caroline Sharp as Adam's wife) works well together in pumping out enough charm and humor to plug the logic holes in Busfield's annual Christmas present to his patrons. Though it isn't exactly an official Red Ryder BB gun, it isn't a box of socks, either.

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