Some things are sacred, but Christmas isn’t one of them, at least not in the hands of the Rochester Repertory Theatre.
The Rep’s reprise of “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!)” gleefully pokes fun at and satirizes everyone’s favorite Christmas productions, from the Grinch and Frosty to the granddaddy of them all, “A Christmas Carol.”
The play, which opened last Friday, is directed by Bill Schnell and features returning cast members Lisa Modry and Dave Derby alongside newcomer (to this show anyway) RJ Traff.
Derby clearly has issues, in the funniest sense of that phrase, and gets some of the craziest bits, as a classical ballerina in “The Nutcracker,” and a tipsy commentator at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
Modry’s comedy is based in part on her ability to project an innocent, wide-eyed wonderment at everything the holiday season offers to us.
Traff, meanwhile, is the steady hand drawn into this maelstrom of dementedness against his wishes.
The setup is this: Traff is launching yet another holiday performance of “A Christmas Carol,” but Modry and Derby claim to be tired of that old chestnut, and want to act out other holiday favorites. Traff assents, so long as they eventually get to “A Christmas Carol.”
And they do eventually get to Dickens’ classic, but not before deconstructing and lampooning all the holiday stories we hold dear.
Modry, for example, wants to act out “A Child’s Christmas with Whales,” while Derby hosts a game show about fruitcake. A spoof of the Rudolph story goes a bit too long, but nearly everything else they try is witty and sharp. Listen closely or you’ll miss some of the dozens of pop culture references that litter the script.
When they finally get to “A Christmas Carol,” it’s a speeded-up version that somehow gets mixed up with “It’s a Wonderful Life”
After such a rambunctious take on the holiday season, Modry, Derby and Traff come back on stage to sing Christmas carols–and these favorites, too, are mashed together to create one entirely new song of the season.
If nothing else, this show proves that laughter is habit-forming. Once the jokes start picking up steam, the laughter of the audience gets rolling like a snowball going downhill. It’s infectious.
Granted, much of this show is just plain silly, but there’s nothing mean-spirited about it. Just sit back, laugh and enjoy.
Tom Weber, Post-Bulletin November 26, 2018