Yes, Virginia, there is A Christmas Carol. But that’s not what audience members at Silver Spring Stage will be seeing this holiday season.
The myriad versions of the Dickens classic—film, play, and musical—are ubiquitous pre-Christmas. Many people give in to their annual dose.
But not the three characters in Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some), a spoof by Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald, and John K. Alvarez.
Well, make that two of them. One of the characters—presumably the most mature—keeps defending the annual tradition of A Christmas Carol with the same fervor as Tevye speaks up for Jewish life in the shtetl in Fiddler on the Roof.
The actors are having blast at what they’re doing, under the quick-paced direction (both verbally and physically) of Susan Brall.
His younger, less patient colleagues, however, have had enough.
They ignore Shaq’s (that’s the mature character’s name) frequent references to Marley (Scrooge’s business partner, in case you haven’t seen the Dickens classic lately) as being “dead.” Equally overlooking his protests that they’ve been rehearsing A Christmas Carol for three weeks already, the characters of Alex and Pat proceed to ridicule, sabotage, and upstage his every effort to bring it to life.
Except at the end, when they actually put on a version of the story—sort of. I won’t spoil the fun by telling you what or how.
Mostly, though, Alex and Pat, with the reluctant participation at times of Shaq, tell every holiday story they can think of, including the Bible and Peanuts. They also celebrate Christmas traditions from around the world—from ancient times to contemporary pop-culture–and they string together, each in very abbreviated form, every carol and holiday song they and you can think of.
Definitely adding to the fun are the video slides, showing contemporary political and cultural figures (Sarah Palin and Dr. Seuss characters are among them) and the participation of audience members. In fact, I’d say the audience at the December 13 performance laughed equally loud at the antics of the actors and at the spontaneous input of their fellow audience members.
But were they spontaneous? The question remains, were these individuals “plants”—or just random people comfortable on stage? I can’t answer that, but either way, they definitely took the zaniness one notch higher.
There are references to Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, as well as two menorahs onstage crafted of liquor bottles. These further make for equal-opportunity spoofs.
The actors are having blast at what they’re doing, under the quick-paced direction (both verbally and physically) of Susan Brall. In her notes, Brall speaks of the “holiday insanity” she grew up with—which translates well into this play.
Shaquille Stewart (playing Shaq), with his sonorous voice, is delightful in his exasperation with the other two characters. Patrick O’Connor (Pat) is probably the most manic and lovable, though Alex Prete (Alex) makes his comic talents and bold presence evident as well.
In fact, Every Christmas Story reminded me somewhat of The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged), in its literary source material, frenetic pace, use of the actors’ names as the characters’, and the combination of wit and slapstick.
This is also a good show for kids, even if they won’t understand every reference or slide. They will certainly get the antics.
Bernie and Joseph Gabin are the scenic designers. J. J. Shurtleff, as costume designer, gets to have fun with a lot of partial changes.
Aron and William Brall as well as the director designed the videos.
Running Time: two hours with a 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: For ages 10 and up.
Every Christmas Story runs through December 20 at Silver Spring Stage, Woodmoor Shopping Center, 10145 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20901. For tickets and information, call (301) 593-6036 or go online: www.ssstage.org.