Ho-ho-humbug and all that rot! Christmas is enough to make you gag. That’s the Christopher Durang interpretation, though one would expect nothing less from the satirizing parody artist. Silver Spring Stage has gone round the twist this holiday season by mounting Durang’s unusual Christmas play Mrs. Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge for a two-weekend limited engagement run over the month of December. Directed by Star Johnson with Musical Direction by Jimmy Mrose, this absurd parody piece will have you singing Christmas carols to a brand new tune.
Durang during any season is a massive undertaking that involves lunacy on par with his mental track in order to successfully portray all of the intricate maladies that he laces into his work. Director Star Johnson does the best she can by drawing out the madness throughout the performance; pushing it that much further would have enhanced the hilarity experienced by all. The show’s biggest issues were the pacing; hastily clipping along through some scenes while dragging their feet during others. The scene changes, which felt clunky, needed tightening as well.
Musical Director Jimmy Mrose brightened the holiday spirits with the peculiar tunes threaded into Durang’s bizarre production. Mrose unearths seasonal gaiety across the ensemble particularly for the song “Yummy, Yum, Yum” sang by the ubiquitous Cratchit family, or most of them. Choreographer Eric Small lends a hand for the “Fezziwig Song” enhancing the spectacle on stage with a little fancy footwork as well.
Costumer Kate Small brings the 1840’s (and various and sundry other) London look to everyone in the cast, particularly the title character in all her threadbare rags. Opposing this derelict look with some of the finer dresses reserved for the partygoers at Fezziwig’s, Small showcases her ability as a costumer with festive flare. Even her irreverent accoutrements for the Ghost are most fitting in a true Durang style.
Notable cameo appearances throughout the show include George Bailey (Eric Small) and Clarence (David Flinn) from It’s a Wonderful Life and Tess (Kelly Farrall) from Touched by an Angel. Small arrives on the scene as the epitome of every George Bailey performance, channeling Jimmy Stewart to perfection. Though his cameo is brief it is a bright spot in the production. Flinn, who sticks around as the Oddbody angel, causing confusion and calamity amid the current tangled plot, is precious in a doddering old geezer fashion. It’s his blunder that results in the summons of Farrall’s who is both sassy and wondrous. Her brief moment of hum/singing is angelic and mirrors the arrival of heavenly hosts on Christmas.
Other performances of note include Little Nell (Margaret Murphy) and Tiny Tim (Maria O’Connor.) Murphy is the bumbling neglected child in the Cratchit family while O’Connor is the more stereotypical representation of tragedy amidst the Cratchit’s. Murphy’s woeful existence is hilarious and her understanding of comic delivery is on par with O’Connor’s. The perpetual whining that O’Connor delivers in the character strikes a note of annoying hilarity that grows more insanely humorous as the show goes on. Both performers make exceptional animal portrayals of themselves during later points in Act II.
The Ghost (Yvonne Paretzky) drifts in and out of place. Paretzky’s comic delivery is inconsistent. Hilarity ensues in-scene, whenever she is actively playing as the Ghost, interacting with Scrooge and the others. But when she serves as the narrative force to the audience, addressing the theatergoers directly, her nerves get the better of her and her strong stage presence wanes. The split between the willful and humorous Ghost in-scene and the nervously uncertain narrator strangles the pacing in places. Paretzky does an impressive job of working the comic angle for her ridiculous costume changes.
Scrooge (Michael Sigler) is not the Scrooge you remember. Rather than biting and bitter— characteristics that are left to the disastrous Mrs. Cratchit (Julie Zito)— Sigler’s miser is apathetic and disconnected. A different take on the stock character that fits right into the chaos that is Durang’s messy masterpiece. He is not without his inadvertent comic charm, Sigler, particularly when it comes to noticing Mrs. Cratchit as he travels with the Ghost.
Zito is a riot. A sarcastic pill that even a glass of milk laid for Santa won’t make easy to swallow. With a flawless accent true presence of mind, once she arrives on the scene Zito takes the story over and carries the Herculean effort on her shoulders. Graced with witty one-liners, comic zingers, and the ability to deliver them all effectively within the realm of her character’s sardonic nature, Zito amps up the enjoyment factor of the show tenfold.
Ho-bloody-ho, as Mrs. Cratchit might say, it’s worth a view if Christmas is not your forte. Holiday cheer with sarcastic fun, this holiday show might not be for everyone. (Definitely not the children.)
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with one intermission
Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge plays through December 21, 2014 at Silver Spring Stage— 10145 Colesville Road in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets please call the box office at (301) 593- 6036 or purchased them online.