‘A Christmas Cactus’ at Off the Quill by Meredith DeFalco

I recently had the pleasure of seeing the funny, charming, and at times heartwarming show, A Christmas Cactus, performed beautifully at the Greenbelt Arts Center by Off the Quill.


Walking into the performance space, you are taken into the sparse, yet charming, office of Private Investigator and lead character Cactus O’Riley (Shannon Riley).

Donald Cook (Neville Smedley). Photo courtesy of Off the Quill.
Donald Cook (Neville Smedley). Photo courtesy of Off the Quill.

Inside the office are Cactus and her faithful associate Fred Booker (Thomas Stratton), slumming on Christmas Eve while Cactus ruminates on her life decisions and desired career change, while Fred laments his need for a vacation – free from his mother. Former flame Stuart Windsor (J. Peter Langsdorf), drops in to woo Cactus but Cactus wants none of it. Shortly thereafter, two bumbling fugitives burst into the office, the eccentric, hysterical Neville F. Smedley (Donald Cook), who’s packing heat and brandishing with wild abandon, and the more level-headed, apologetically sincere Ramon Ramirez (Marlowe Vilchez), both desperate to prove their innocence.

Fred’s mother, Adelaide Booker (Katie Wanschura), shows up to drag her baby-boy home, thinks she’s walked into a staged whodunit mystery, and assumes it’s her Christmas gift from Fred, who starts flirting with the outlandish Neville. Throw a drunken Stuart back into the mix, and Cactus has had just about all she can handle, slowly coming to realize that this night could, in fact, be her Christmas miracle.

J. Peter Langdorf (
J. Peter Langsdorf (Windsor). Photo courtesy of Off the Quill.

Each actor is worth noting, but standouts include Donald Cook as Neville Smedley and J. Peter Langsdorf as Windsor. The comedic timing of each is impeccable, the vulnerability and sincerity each brings to his character is superb, and their acting chops are undeniable.

Director Leanne Dinverno has put together a fantastic show with seamless scene changes, a clear focus, and a touching sincerity that is both impressive and unmatched. Each actor has standout moments, and no actor pulls focus when they shouldn’t, allowing each and every individual to shine.

Producer Patrick Mullen contributes the effective set and lighting design. The set is filled with bookcases and and desks and the lighting helps to set the different moods of each scene.

I encourage you to go see this joy-filled production. At this time of year, tons of theatres are putting on various Christmas/Holiday themed shows, but I doubt you’ll find one quite like the hilarious, touching comedy put on by Off the Quill at the Greenbelt Arts Center. If you want to escape the insanity of holiday shopping, then come out and support these fine players!

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, with one intermission.


A Christmas Cactus plays through December 19 2015 through December 19, 2016 at Greenbelt Arts Center – 123 Centerway, in Greenbelt, MD 20770. For tickets call the box office at (301) 441-8770 or purchase them online.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

The review is by Guest Reviewer Meredith DeFalco.


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