God bless you, theatre patrons of DC. You’ve been blessed that for another year, The Second City’s Twist Your Dickens is bringing tiding of holiday hilarity to The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts! Appearing now through New Year’s Eve in the Theatre Lab, this uproarious mishmosh of Dickensian tomfoolery and modernity will have you splitting seams as you chuckle with Christmas cheer all through the nonsensical two hours of silliness they traffic across the stage. Directed by Frank Caeti, and featuring the district’s own John Lescault, there’s a bit of fun-loving nonsense in the production for everyone, though fair warning, the show is geared primarily towards mature audiences.
With zany and wonderful costumes, crafted by Costume Designer Ivania Stack, a surefire minimalist set created by Scenic Designer Tom Buderwitz, and a combination of efficient and spectacular sound and lighting design by Reid May and Brittany Shemuga, respectively, there is a bountiful atmosphere and aesthetic to aid in the absorption of this year’s comedy. Following the same format of the previous year, where Scrooge (played by Lescault himself) despite his historic ways, is indeed visited by three ghosts over the course of the evening— technically four once you count the apparition of Jacob Marley (Eric M. Messner)— and then plagued by all sorts of hilarity in addition to that, the show is uproarious and well-suited for the difficult times in which we tread, providing a much needed dose of comic Christmas cheer at this festive time of year.
The thing that Director Frank Caeti does best when it comes to this show is balances the audience interactive/improvisational bits against the scripted sketches of the show. The nature of the performance blends both, allowing for natural moments of unplanned comedy, especially when Paul Jurewicz (who primarily plays the Ghost of Christmas Past) tries to make Lescault crack. The art of “corpsing” (cracking out of character into hysterical laughter, unintentionally) is well-known among the thespians of the board. At this performance, Jurewicz succeeds spectacularly in forcing Lescault to “corpse” during his ad-libbed improv bit with a singular, albeit raunchy, joke. The look on Lescault’s face as he realizes he can’t keep it together is priceless, and it is ultimately moments like this that make the show raw and real, relatable in a humorous vein to the audience. All of this naturally occurring comedy is the fruitful product of Caeti’s directorial efforts.
The ensemble of six— Carisa Barreca, Aaron Bliden, Anne Bowles, Paul Jurewicz, Eric M. Messner, Tia Shearer— take the lead of John Lescault and go to town with the humors of the show. Whether it occurs during scripted sketches that are completely in sync with the linearity of A Christmas Carol or during the improvised bits occurring with audience suggestion, or during the modernized approaches to some of the funnier sketches, this sextet of performers works extraordinarily well together and thoroughly understand the importance of honesty in comedy. Tia Shearer in particular, especially when playing Tiny Tim, knows exactly how long she can milk a bit for, pulling back at the exact moment where the sketch would otherwise become hackneyed and overdrawn.
Ultimately hysterical, this year’s production of Twist Your Dickens is on point with current events, diffusing politics and world happenings into the humor of the show, as well as trotting out tried and true sketches that never fail to land a laugh among the audience. Lescault is a delightful Scrooge and an even more delightful comedian, particularly when it comes to running point on the show’s overall momentum. Be sure to Twist Your Dickens this Christmas season, it’s the funniest and most outrageous production of A Christmas Carol that you’ll see, regardless of how many other pageants and parades of it are marching across stages all through the district this December.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with one intermission
Twist Your Dickens plays through December 31, 2017 in the Theater Lab of The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts— 2700 F Street NW in Washington, DC. For tickets call the box office at (202) 467-4600 or purchase them online.