Monday, December 11, 2017

Every Christmas Story Ever Told...—Twilight Theater—N. Portland

A Not So…Silent Night

 “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some)” was written by Carleton, Alvarez & Knapp and directed by Dorinda Toner (Twilight’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space, 7515 N. Brandon Ave. (just off Lombard--upstairs), through December 17th.  Free parking is in a church lot directly across the street.  For more information, go to their site at www.twilighttheatercompany.org

When you think of Christmas, what do you envision?  I mean, after you’ve gotten though all the material crap, there has to be a little magic left over for all the beings that inhabit this Land of Imagination.  Depending on your age, memories of a childhood in Wonderland might encompass a parent reading a story to you, or radio songs and tales of Christmas, or a religious center that focuses on the Nativity, but my guess is that TV and movies had a lot to do with your impressions of this Yuletide season.

This is what these three gentlemen, Jim (Craig Fitzpatrick), John (Greg Shilling) and Michael (Rob Harris) want to share with an audience.  Jim wants to re-tell Dickens’s famous tale of “A Christmas Carol” but the other two fellows have a somewhat broader idea of what it’s all about.  It not only includes Santa and his little people, but also the legends of the anti-Santa characters from the lore of other countries.  Also reality raises its ugly head at times, such as how does this jolly, ole fat man visit billions of homes in just one night?  And are not the elves really slave labor and Santa is discriminating against little people?  And what about flying reindeers…really?!

Well, it seems obvious, Christmas is a lot of things to all sorts of people.  Even to the point of over-lapping and contradicting each other.  And so this play, with some help from the audience, explores every possible pathway, and even some not so possible.  (I myself have even written one on the Krampus legend from Europe for radio, which will be repeated nationally for the fourth time this year.)  I do not want to give away the gags in the show so will just feature my favorite parts.

I loved the Game Show in which the host (Harris) asks loaded questions of his panel about Christmas.  He obviously favors contestant #1 (Schilling), giving him easy questions and, even when he’s vague as to his answers, he re-interprets them so that he gets a point.  The Host doesn’t appreciate contestant #2 (Fitzpatrick), so he ignores him or gives him impossible questions to answer.  And contestant #3 (audience member) he obviously likes, so through gestures or voice inflections he gives them the right answer.  A very funny bit.
My other favorite moment is Act Two, as Jim finally gets his wish and they do an abbreviated version of “A Christmas Carol” with him playing Scrooge.  But it’s not all that simple, as John gets his stories mixed up and, as Scrooge visits the various visions from his past, present and future, John comes up with all the characters from “It’s A Wonderful Life” (amazing how these two stories blend together).  But you’ll have to see it to find out how it all comes out.

Fitzpatrick has always been a favorite of mine in the all-too-few plays I’ve seen him in.  His Scrooge is spot on, as is his George Bailey, and his slow burn at times over the proceedings is priceless.  Schilling’s plethora of supporting personages from Capra’s film is excellent.  And his rendition of Linus’s Navitity story from, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is perfect, nary a snicker in sight.  And the rubber-faced Harris is exceptional as the Host of the Game Show with an agenda.  He has been in many shows with this company and always a stand-out, as he is here.  Toner has cast this play very well and has kept it low-tech so that it retains the story-telling qualities, which are keys to the success of such a production.

I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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