By Manning Harris
For the second year in a row, the Alliance Theatre’s Hertz Stage is hosting a Dad’s Garage show for the holidays. As you may guess from the title, the present work is irreverent, wacky, and has some language your grandmother would undoubtedly disapprove of. “Merry Bleeping Christmas” (we’ll call it) runs through Dec. 19.
You’ve probably heard that the very successful “Seinfeld” TV show is a “show about nothing.” That phrase came to mind watching this production from Scratch, the Canadian writing/performing team of Kevin Gillese and Arlen Konopaki, directed by Gillese. But like “Seinfeld,” this show is finding an audience: The night I saw it was sold out, with folks sitting in the aisles.
Dad’s Garage is known for its improvisation shows; however, “Merry Bleeping” is scripted. But the actors still feel free to respond to audience reaction. I think a better title would be “Christmas After the Apocalypse.”
You see, Santa (Chris Rittelmeyer) is a terrorist; Ebenezer Scrooge (Chris Blair) has time-traveled to the present to attempt a rescue of Christmas. An Adorable Orphan (Karen Cassady) is building an androgynous Frosty the Snowperson (Taylor M. Dooley). There’s a sad dad named Jerry (Mark Kendall), who attempts to partner with Ebenezer. Ed Morgan and James Watson complete this motley crew.
What saves this confused brew from total implosion is the talent and inventiveness of the actors. They are, after all, improv experts, and their own experience and comic surefootedness rescue this “play about nothing”; well, it’s related to Christmas. I would say the standout is the petite Ms. Cassady’s Adorable Orphan, who’s got lots of gumption as well as a sense of fun.
Oh yes, the actors twirl; they jump and spin in place to signal a time/space transition. At first it seems merely a rather lame device to save money on sets; but it grows on one. I began to look forward to the twirling; there are so few things one can count on in this world—which I think is one of the themes of this naughty merriment.
We all know there are awful things happening in the world now; this play just thumbs its nose at the whole grand mess and seems to say we may as well go down laughing. The audience seems to like that. The play is certainly not dramatically compelling, but if you’re already in a “bah humbug” sort of mood and want to chuckle at the whole holiday shebang, then “Merry Bleeping Christmas” may be your cup of eggnog (laced, hopefully, with brandy).
For tickets and information, visit alliancetheatre.org.