Tuesday, November 25, 2008

At Capital Stage: Xmas Stories Never Told

Jonathan (l) and Gary enact some exotic ways to celebrate the Christmas (etc.) holiday season.

“Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)” takes its third and final bow at Capital Stage, rivaling the pirates from Somalia as it raids Christmas and related holidays around the world. The show takes no prisoners. Hanukah, for instance, “begins on the 24th of Kislev, whenever that falls, no one is really sure.”

Kwanza also gets the back of a hand, though it has one significant advantage: “You will never, ever see a ‘Donny & Marie Osmond Kwanza Special.’” Donny & Marie? All those in the audience who remember the Osmonds, raise your hands. Still, for the younger set, we have some updates. Like topical references to “George Bush, fighter pilot,” Sarah Pallin (of course), Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, and John McCain as Father Christmas.

(No, dear, nobody mentioned Barack Obama’s middle name.)

Stuff cotton in the ears of your kids, folks. Or else they’ll find out that, for instance, in Greece “Sankt Nikolaos” arrives with “demonic earth spirits who appear during the holidays to punish bad children,” and the really bad ones are sucked “down into the underworld, never to be seen again.”

Something similar happens in Germany, where “St. Nicholas arrives followed by the Krampus, a seven foot tall monster with goat horns and an extra long tongue.”

But the writers–Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald and John K. Alvarez–are cautious about copyright. Montgomery Ward (though now defunct) still has a lock on the name Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer. To avoid a lawsuit our guys bring us, instead, Gustav, the Green-nosed Reingoat.

Returning as director is Greg Alexander, along with Anthony D’Juan and Gary Martinez from the original show. Jonathan Rhys Williams joins the cast, though he’s far from a newcomer to Capital Stage. What we get is exquisite comic timing, lots of mugging, grotesque costumes (thanks to Rebecca Redmond) and startling props, like a human-sized inflated whale.

The premise is a rebellion against the traditional by Jonathan, who starts off trying to honor tradition with Dickens’ beloved “A Christmas Carol.” The others rebel and arrive at an ambitious plan: a composite of all the Christmas stories ever told everywhere in the world. But that’s just the first act. The second, as a matter of compromise, returns to “A Christmas Carol.”

Again things go awry, and the story spins Jonathan around in a hodgepodge of “Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The play as a whole seems to have everything, including audience participation, which includes a mock quiz show that stops short of embarrassing the volunteers. (Or are they just shills?)

The show runs about ninety minutes, plus a fifteen-minute intermission. And though some of the gags are a little passé, most of the show is inherently funny. Still, it’s probably wise to retire the show after this year’s performance. Though those seeing the play for the first time should be thoroughly delighted, audiences returning from last year may feel a bit disappointed because the humor is based on parody. Its jokes depend on surprise; if we’ve heard them before we may nod approval but we don’t laugh as much.

“Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) runs through December 28 at the Delta King Theatre, 1000 Front Street in Old Sacramento. Performances are Wednesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 for Saturdays at 7 p.m.; $26 for all other performances.

Street parking is available though time-limited seven days a week. Garage and valet parking are also available.

For tickets call (916) 995-5464. Click the title of this post for more information.

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