Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge – December 20, 2017

In comedy, timing is everything and the timing is so off in 6th Street Playhouse’s Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge that the fact that it still manages to extract any laughs at all from its audience is somewhat of a Christmas miracle. Plagued with pre-production challenges ranging from a change in director due to the fires to the untimely passing of its lead actor, director Jared Sakren and his cast have done their best to present local audiences an option for alternative holiday fun.

Christopher Durang’s musical parody of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – with detours through the worlds of Oliver Twist, The Gift of the Magi, and It’s a Wonderful Life amongst others– has not aged well since its 2002 premiere. Full of political and pop cultural references that might have seemed dated even them (Remember Enron and Kenneth Lay? Harry and Leona Helmsley? TV’s Touched by an Angel?), it follows Ebenezer Scrooge (played by Kit Grimm) on his Christmas Eve journey through his past as guided by an incompetent ghost (Debra Harvey, alternating in the role with Serena Flores). Their visit to the Cratchit household reveals an angry and bitter Mrs. Bob Cratchit (played by an appropriately crotchety Tika Moon), who’s fed up with her milquetoast husband (an earnest Conor Woods), their twenty children – most of whom live in the root cellar – and her lot in life. Soon it’s off to the pub for her where she’ll knock back a few followed by a London Bridge plunge into the Thames. Scrooge and Cratchit’s fates become intertwined, as Scrooge finds himself oddly attracted to his underling’s miserable wife and Cratchit wishes she had never been born. The show concludes with a decidedly un-Christmas-like moral – you can be poor, loving, and noble, or rich, mean, and happy. God bless us, everyone!
The play contains four original songs by Durang and Michael Friedman that offer a few chuckles, but you won’t be hearing carolers singing any of these any Christmas soon.

Dicken’s original story is ripe for parody, and Durang does manage to mine a few silly laughs out of it, but this show never really gets off the ground. There are hints at what Ms. Harvey might have been able to do with the lead role of the ghost with sufficient rehearsal time, but the necessity of her reading from a script played havoc with the show’s pacing. Without a strong, central performance, it was left to the supporting cast to veer out on their own and bring the laughs. The most successful of those were Moon’s bitingly sarcastic Mrs. Cratchit, Laura Levin’s ebullient, cherubic Mrs. Fezziwig, and Eric Weiss’s rubber-limbed not-so-Tiny Tim.

Credit to them and the entire ensemble for gamely marching on in the hopes of producing some Christmas cheer. While the punchbowl they’re serving it from is far from full, there’s at least enough in it for a couple of glasses.

Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge plays at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse through December 23rd with evening performances at 7:30 pm and matinees at 2:00pm
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