Ho Ho Thud! Actor’s Theatre puts a lump of coal in my stocking
Posted on 2 Dec 2010 by Mitch Metz
Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) is playing at Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte now through December 18th. The premise is solid enough, a trio of talented actors fly through Christmas stories, bringing laughter and joy to all. Well, yes, opening night had a few laughs, and the trio was most certainly talented… the script however was assembled with the expertise of a drunken dad out in the garage with a box of bicycle parts at 2am Christmas Eve. No, the wheels didn’t fall off, but this show wobbled around for an hour and a half before the seat finally pointed sideways and the handlebars came off.
The show opens with Chip Bradley center stage, sharing the classic, “A Christmas Carol“, with the audience. Fellow actors Joe Klosek and elf sized Maret Decker Seitz manage to talk him out of the traditional portrayal, and instead into giving the audience a hodgepodge of Christmas stories. Seems like fun, and most of the time, it is! Unfortunately, the script is long on marginally funny one liners, and when they do hit on a great gag, they ride that pony right into the ground until you’re begging them to move on.
The first act had some highlights however… Maret’s portrayal of a Thanksgiving Day Parade hostess was hilarious (for a while) and quite intoxicating, the “Rudolph” skit had some illuminating moments (I laughed out loud during Charlie in the Box), Chip was smooth as clockwork in “The Gift of the Magi”, and Joe blew us away with his interpretation of “Frosty the Snowman”. If somehow they could keep all the gags and great one-liners, yet cut 10 minutes (The Grinch and The Game Show stories could have used some severe trimming), I would have gone to intermission excited about what was to come, instead of thinking “hell, I’m gonna need a beer to sit through more of this”.
We’re promised “A Christmas Carol” in the second act, and are treated to a mash-up with “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Obviously, playwrights Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald, and John K. Alvarez put a lot of time and effort into getting this conglomeration to flow from one classic to the other, and director Craig Spradley did a remarkable job utilizing Chip’s strengths on stage. Joe and Maret transitioned beautifully from narrator to character to character. Those 20 minutes were the star of the show, and certainly worth the price of admission. Comedic acting and timing, mixed with solid writing are much more entertaining than a big ol’ slab of Christmas ham! You do NOT want to miss the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come (my personal favorite).
The show ends with a very funny Christmas song, sung in three part harmony… I mean, two part harmony and one voice seemingly bouncing around, trying to find the right note. I understand, it was opening night, and I’m sure they’ll iron it out, but those sour notes still happened … ouch!
Overall, well, yes, I’m glad I went to the show. I’ll admit, there were times in the first act I wanted to scream “we got it already”! However, these three actors are extremely talented, and give the audience their very all. Heck, maybe I just needed a beer BEFORE the show to get more receptive to “goofy“, I don’t know. I DO know though, I’ve come to expect amazing things from the hard working folks over at Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, and this script doesn’t quite give them enough ammunition to blow me away … as I said, Ho Ho Thud … reindeer droppings on my rooftop, but I still got a present!
If you’re up for some silliness, and enjoy picking up on the little things like author O. Henry (The Gift of the Magi) being the inspiration for the Oh Henry candy bar (actually named for the greatest baseball player who ever lived, Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron), or Scrooge being referred to as “Binky”, there are plenty of laughs in this show. Drop by Actor’s Theatre over on Stonewall, taste a bottle or two of their fine beverages, and cheer on these hard working actors as they do their best to bring some Christmas joy into your life! Playing now through December 18th.