Christmas time is here: ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ shines at El Camino

The romantic-comedy play “The Shop Around The Corner” honors the holiday spirit of Christmas through its creative set design and artistic storytelling about two pen-pal lovers.

Directed by Luke Yankee, “The Shop Around The Corner” takes place in 1930’s Hungary and is one of the first ECC performances back in person. Every act of the play held the audience’s attention. The characters felt nuanced and the set design was creative and different from the usual sets due to its radio-inspired set.

The play was originally inspired by the play “Parfumerie” and evolved into the beloved Christmas tale we know today.

Reminiscent of the Tom Hanks film “You’ve Got Mail”, “The Shop Around The Corner” revolves around characters Georg Novak, played by Thomas Rhys Evans and Amalia Balash, played by Rhiannon Heather, who are two pen-pal lovers with no knowledge regarding the real identities of one another.

The two main characters, Novak and Balash, use codenames to address each other and have been sending letters back and forth after meeting through a newspaper advertisement about finding a partner.

Novak and Balash both desperately want to meet each other even though at the beginning of the story, it is revealed they are oblivious to the fact that they work together.

The play revolves around the couple’s misfortune, which leads to moments where Balash boasts about her unseen love to Novak.

Rhiannon and Evans both put on great performances in every scene they had together. The pair had perfect chemistry every time that they graced the stage.

Other characters in the play deal with their own problems as well. Store manager, Mr. Maraczek, has to deal with antics from both of the two secret lovers, in addition to customers bustling through the store during the holiday rush.

The role of Mr. Maraczek was played by Timothy Avila, who stole the spotlight in scenes featuring the lead couple.

The play’s stage design provided a very creative and expressive display as it was presented and set up as a radio show, complete with a wide variety of audio cues that is to be expected when listening to radio.

The play featured a foley artist and announcer for the program both portrayed by Keala Fitisemanu. Fictional advertisements were read between acts to sell the illusion of being at a live session with Lux Soap being the sponsor of the radio show program.

The set design also showcased multiple microphones placed in front of the actors, in which they utilized the radio sessions. COVID-protective masks worn by the actors did not get in the way of hearing the lines that they delivered.

Keeping with the 1930’s setting, the costumes for the cast consisted mainly of the standard suits and dresses appropriate to the time period.

There were many moments where the audience erupted in laughter throughout the play. During one of the advertisements between acts, Avila spoke in a feminine voice to fill in the role of a woman.

As the ending was revealed and the play came to a close, the crowd stood up from their seats to give a standing ovation and a round of applause.

“The Shop Around the Corner” provided audiences with a delightful and warm romantic Christmas story that can inspire anyone to believe in the magic of love.

Editors Note: Byline was updated to give proper credit to the reporter on Dec. 16 at 4:15 a.m.