Review: Three fine actors add a zany spin on standard holiday fare
Submitted to Prospector
While their traditional rendition of the seasonal classic, “Miracle on 34th Street,” plays at the Nevada Theatre, an additional production by LeGacy Presents, sited at the smaller Off Center Stage in Grass Valley, refuses to stick with holiday convention and instead humorously sends up everything from fruitcake to snowmen.
This alternative play, “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some),” is a fast-moving, irreverent comedy that skewers the holiday classics, traditions and myths and condenses them into approximately 90 minutes of raucous theater. From Tiny Tim to the Grinch to Frosty to Rudolph to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” no pop culture holiday icon is spared.
The play, written by Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald and John K. Alvarez, begins with Tom (T.E. Wolfe) launching into a traditional performance of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” But he is almost immediately interrupted when Brandon (Brandon Johnson) and then Jay (Jay Barker) protest that they can’t stomach even one more run-through of that worn out chestnut. Apologizing to the audience, Tom asks what else they can do, and the mania takes off from there with everything from readings of creepy holiday traditions from other cultures to a manic presentation of parts of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” complete with Tom’s dead-on Jimmy Stewart impersonation and Brandon’s hyperactive and hilarious juxtaposing of dialogue between “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol.”
Jay’s zany character interpretations, often done with batting eyelashes, made me laugh out loud. The three actors are terrific, melding seamlessly and playing wonderfully off of each other — even in the slightly slower first half, their body language, facial expressions and interactions are superb.
Tom’s unwaveringly put-upon straight man characterization is especially noteworthy. And they all are at their best in the faster-paced, funnier second half of the show, rattling off almost more words than the mind can absorb.
Performed on a simple but good looking and functional set, designed by Scott Ewing (who also creatively directed the play), the three actors constantly move around, off and behind the small stage, which increased the visual quality of the performance. Enhanced by the often outrageous costumes (by Libby Bonomolo and Capital Stage) and props (by Katherine Scourtes and Capital Stage), the fun quotient was increased as the actors changed clothes and props frequently. There was singing, dancing (“The Nutcracker” like you’ve never seen it) and slapstick shtick, all well choreographed by Santia Enos Kroes. Contributing to the overall fun results were lighting and special effects by Chris Humphries.
Be prepared for significant damage to be done to your favorite holiday classics with no seasonal staples spared by the hilarious and rambling riffs or pointed comments.
Go to see how these three fine actors work so tightly and riotously together and you’ll never again watch “A Christmas Carol” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” without chuckling. “Every Christmas Story” continues at the Off Center Stage, behind The Center for the Arts, through Dec. 30.
Hindi Greenberg enjoys laughing, especially during the often solemn holiday season. She wishes you a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and Joyful New Year — best to choose two out of three.
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