the arts

Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge

Different Stages drives Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge, a holiday spoof by Christopher Durang, like a kamikaze hayride into a merry miscellany of Christmas entertainments

Reviewed by Patti Hadad, Fri., Dec. 1, 2006

Arts Review

Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge

play! Theatre, through Dec. 9

And now for something completely Different Stages. This company drives Christopher Durang's holiday spoof like a kamikaze hayride into a merry miscellany of Christmas entertainments. Lampooning the one time of year that seems to have more stories than any other season, Durang has fashioned a portmanteau of two of the most venerable (albeit not the oldest) Christmas tales: Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.

The playwright splits the spotlight between Scrooge and a depressed Mrs. Cratchit, adding a lot more to her and Bob Cratchit's backstory. (Turns out her capricious hubby brings in enough foundlings for a small militia but never enough money for food.) You'd have thought that Dickens would have wanted her to be the kindest of gentlewomen and as blithely spirited as her husband – and maybe he did, but this Mrs. Bob comically downs a few hasty shots and splits, threatening to throw herself off the London Bridge, but not before she falls … in love with the scowling miser.

Dickens' three spirits are compressed into one – one with a sassy voice and penchant for Billie Holiday, no less – but in her red Converse heels the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future (Julianna Wright) walks us through the familiar steps of Dickens' tale, beginning with the young and old Ebenezers meeting one another. That, however, turns out to be the needle scratching the record, altering the story and setting the zany tone for the show. For some inexplicable reason, the ghost's magic keeps transporting the skinflint to Mrs. Cratchit, who, as played by Nicole Marosis, sports a permanent frown, making her a well-suited battle-axe for Scrooge. Eric Porter creates a memorable Scrooge, with toadlike lip-licking, a croaking evil laugh, and enough arthritic shaking that if he put on sunglasses, he'd look like Ozzy Osbourne. A whirlwind of plot twists spin us through parodies of more Dickens (Oliver Twist and The Old Curiosity Shop), plus O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" and that Capra-esque angel "getting his wings." And Kirk German blows the show wide open with Mr. Fezziwig's song, just one of a handful of random musical numbers.

It is a frenetic yet humorous mess. The props are two-dimensional. Actors occasionally call other actors by their real names. There are side-splitting moments when the collective energy of the cast of 10 seems to burst into improvisation. Wildly imaginative and off-the-wall, this production is ideal if you're looking for a Christmas story that's goofy but with a decent ending.


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