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Little Theatre of Alexandria Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge

By • Dec 1st, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge, book and lyrics by Christopher Durang, music by Michael Friedman
Little Theatre of Alexandria
Little Theatre of Alexandria, Alexandria, VA
Through December 18th
1:45 without intermission
$15
Reviewed November 16th, 2010

What this show lacks in coherence and uplift it makes up in scattershot satire and darkly comic cynicism. Leave coherence and uplift to Charles Dickens. If it’s all-over-the-place ridicule and chipper snarkiness you’re looking for, Christopher Durang is your man. Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge is Durang’s 2002 anarchic spoof of Dickens’ 1843 comic and sentimental classic A Christmas Carol.

A perky production of Mrs. Bob is currently playing at the Little Theater of Alexandria.

The show is like a clever undergraduate revue. It ransacks not only A Christmas Carol. Durang also grabs and squeezes It’s a Wonderful Life, Touched by an Angel, My Friend Flicka, Mommy Dearest, The Little Match Girl, The Gifts of the Magi, Alice Through the Looking Glass, the Enron scandal, the Leona Helmsley uproar and two Dickens’ work in addition to Carol: The Old Curiousity Shop and Oliver Twist.

Durang even recycles bits of his own work — The Actor’s Nightmare and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All to You. Mrs. Bob (or Gladys Cratchit, as Durang calls her) is venomous and suicidal, whereas Sister Mary is venomous and homicidal. But these two leading ladies share a peculiarly jaunty meanness. Durang’s luckless nightmare-ridden actor is confused and out of control, though he keeps bucking himself up and he keeps trying to take charge. Same goes for the Christmas ghost in Mrs. Bob. She is officious and mouthy. But even with an electric shock prod she can’t manage Ebenezer Scrooge — let alone maneuver past, present and future in any sort of edifying way.

As the Alexandria Little Theater’s flustered ghost, Maria Simpkins sparkles with domineering attitude. However, she sometimes rattles off her snappy lines in such a throw away manner that all that comes across is a frustrated effort to dominate. The actual intimidating words are not always clear.

Aimee Meher-Homji, as Mrs. Bob, goes from sad sack to exultant bully. At first she’s all whiny and spiteful. But when . . . . No, let’s not get into that amazing transformation. Derivative though he may be in writing Mrs. Bob, Durang can be amazingly ingenious and original when it comes time for him to wrap up and deliver his weird little Christmas gift to theater-goers.

Alexandria director Liz Owens uses 15 performers to play nearly 30 characters. And we only meet four of the Cratchit’s 21 children (most of whom are confined to a root cellar.) The acting tends to be broad and cartoonish, which is fine. Not so fine is the way Owens’ production is mostly on one comic plane, with one jocular tone, offering little of the highs and lows, the builds and the slackenings that can give a play driving rhythm and engaging momentum.

Much of the show’s original satirical zing has faded as targets like Enron and Leona Helmsley lose their currency. What distinguishes Mrs. Bob from a slap-dash undergraduate revue, however, is Durang’s characteristic impatience with hokum and his non-conformist sense of humor. Leave it to him to discover the attractiveness of the dreadful, unrepentant, unreformed Scrooge. And leave it to Durang to reveal the unattractiveness of the long-suffering, uncomplaining, unfailingly nice Mrs. Bob Cratchit.

A Note From The Director

When I first read the script for this show, I felt as if I had stepped onto a roller coaster ride. After just a few pages, I was giddy with joy, and so very pleased that a new flavor of holiday show like this existed. The old classics are tried and true and have their place, but after a few rounds, they begin to lack that spark and spontaneity that we all enjoy so much.

This show creatively pulls together snippets of several other shows. The other show characters may come into Mrs. Bob Crachit’s Wild Christmas Binge with the full mention of being what they are known for, but it’s as if our show is a disease that infects all who touch it. As the Borg in “Star Trek” say, “Resistance is futile.” The other show snippets quickly take an unexpected turn and become just as wacky and twisted as our show.

Nothing can set Mrs. Bob Crachit’s Wild Christmas Binge back on track, it seems, and nothing will clear until we reach the end. Near the end, things begin to feel right again, and suddenly we realize that our show had been heading to this conclusion the whole time. It should make you question things.

You should wonder what it is that Tiny Tim is mysteriously dying from, and why Scrooge changing his ways will somehow miraculously solve his deathly illness. You should wonder why Bob Crachit never developed a spine, stood up for himself or left Scrooge to find a better job.

You should wonder about those gentlemen who go around happily collecting for the poor. Do they really give the money they collect to the poor or take the money for themselves in an underhanded scheme? And did people in London actually look forward to eating Christmas pudding when it’s made from rotten fruit and suet? Many of these questions were never addressed in the original show, A Christmas Carol. Now, finally, Mrs. Bob Crachit’s Wild Christmas Binge will address them. Enjoy!

Liz Owens, Director

Photo Gallery

Kevin Harr (Jacob Marley's Ghost), Steve Izant (Ebenezer Scrooge), and Kathleen Lovain (Young Jacob Marley's Ghost) Steve Izant (Ebenezer Scrooge) and Maria Simpkins (The Ghost of Christmas Past)
Kevin Harr (Jacob Marley’s Ghost), Steve Izant (Ebenezer Scrooge), and Kathleen Lovain (Young Jacob Marley’s Ghost)
Steve Izant (Ebenezer Scrooge) and Maria Simpkins (The Ghost of Christmas Past)
Maria Simpkins (The Ghost of Christmas Past), Steve Izant (Ebenezer Scrooge), Kathleen Lovain (Cratchit Child 1), Aimee Meher-Homji (Gladys Cratchit), Aimee Meher-Homji (Gladys Cratchit), Gary Stephans (Bartender), Kevin Harr (Gentleman in Bar), and Geoff Baskir (Gentleman in Bar)
Maria Simpkins (The Ghost of Christmas Past), Steve Izant (Ebenezer Scrooge), Kathleen Lovain (Cratchit Child 1), Aimee Meher-Homji (Gladys Cratchit),
Aimee Meher-Homji (Gladys Cratchit), Gary Stephans (Bartender), Kevin Harr (Gentleman in Bar), and Geoff Baskir (Gentleman in Bar)

Photos by Ari McSherry.

Cast

  • The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future: Maria Simpkins
  • Ebenezer Scrooge: Steve Izant
  • Gladys Crachit: Aimee Meher-Homji
  • Bob Crachit: James Senavitis
  • Tiny Tim, Fezziwig Daughter 2: Peter Johnson
  • Little Nell Crachit, Mrs. Fezziwg, The Beadle’s Wife, Tess the Angel: Eliza Malakoff
  • Crachit Child 1, Young Jacob Marley: Kathleen Lovain
  • Crachit Child 2, Young Ebenezer: Julian Worth
  • Gentleman 1 collecing for Christmas, Mr. Fezziwig, The Beadle: Johnny Haid
  • Gentleman 2 Collecting for Christmas, Edvar, George Bailey, Serena the Maid: Geoff Baskir
  • Jacob Marley’s Ghost, Clarence the Angel: Kevin Harr
  • Fezziwig Daughter 1, Monica the Angel, the Nice Mrs. Crachit, Hedvig: Liz Isbell
  • Bartender: Gary Stephens
  • Zuzu Bailey, Little Girl Who Keeps Popping In: Ava Lovain
  • Trouble Helmsley: Bela Baskir

Crew

  • Producer: Genie Baskir
  • Director: Liz Owens
  • Assistant to the Producer: Susan Devine
  • Stage Manager: Margaret Evans-Joyce
  • Vocal Coach: Linda Wells
  • Choreographer: Richelle Howie
  • Assisted by: Emma Baskir
  • Costumes: Kit Sibley and Jean Schlicting
  • Assisted by: Rebecca Fischler and Annie Vroom
  • Set Designer: Marian Holmes
  • Set Construction: Jeff Nessmayer
  • Assisted by: Dan Remmers
  • Set Painting: Kevin O’Dowd
  • Sound: David Correia
  • Assisted by: David Rampy
  • Lights: Nancy Owens
  • Rigging: Russell Wyland
  • Set Dressing: Maria Forte
  • Properties: Susie Poole
  • Wardrobe: Margaret Snow
  • Master Electrician: Dick Schwab
  • Photography: Ari McSherry

Disclaimer: Little Theatre of Alexandria provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/5932.

lives in Arlington with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. Before retiring last year at age 70, he was theater critic at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for 27 years. Prior to that, he reviewed plays for the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Texas Observer and the Swarthmore College Phoenix. Non-reviewing journalistic jobs include writing for the Houston Chronicle, the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Star and El Mundo de San Juan. Think about it: most of the papers he worked for no longer exist. Maybe this internet gig has better longevity prospects.

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