Laughter Abounds In The Second City’s “A Christmas Carol” - Twist Your Dickens!”

Wednesday, 25 Dec 2013, 9:10:00 AM

Beverly Cohn

From left: Ron West, Joe Liss (kneeling), Ithamar Enriquez, Frank Caeti (floor), Brendan Jennings, Jaime Moyer, and Amanda Blake Davis in the grand finale of The Second City’s “A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!”
Photo by Craig Schwartz
From left: Ron West, Joe Liss (kneeling), Ithamar Enriquez, Frank Caeti (floor), Brendan Jennings, Jaime Moyer, and Amanda Blake Davis in the grand finale of The Second City’s “A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!”

Do you have the holiday blues? Feeling blah? Hate shopping? Hate

being nice to relatives you really don’t like? Are you wishing you could

go to sleep and when you wake up, all the “festivities” are over? Well,

be sad no more as The Second City’s “A Christmas Carol – Twist Your

Dickens!” on stage at the Kirk Douglas Theatre is the perfect antidote

to the holiday tradition condition.

Written by Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort, under the impeccable direction

by Marc Warzecha, fasten your seat belts for non-stop, mostly

irreverent, fractured version of Dickens’ classic tale. It should be

noted that before the audience was let into the theatre, they were

handed strips of red or green construction paper and were instructed to

write the most awful thing they’ve ever done. As we found out later on,

this was an important, riotous element to spring upon the unsuspecting

audience.

With beautiful Victorian sets by Scenic Designer Tom Buderwitz, the

shenanigans begin with a mask-wearing barbershop quartet singing the

exposition in comical verse immediately followed by all hell breaking

loose. It’s Christmas Eve. The weather is freezing, with a biting cold,

chilling wind. Ebenezer Scrooge has lined up several heaters to keep him

warm, with none for his devoted, overworked, freezing clerk, who

heartbreakingly plays the most abused Bob Cratchit, wonderfully brought

to life by Ithamar Enriquez, who appears in an assortment of other

characters. He is appropriately obsequious and is forced to work on

Christmas Eve. Scrooge, in an act of “kindness,” generously “gifts” his

clerk with a day off on Christmas Day.

Ron West’s Ebenezer Scrooge is about as evil and nasty as you can get

turning away an assortment of people asking for charitable

contributions to provide Christmas dinners for the needy, which he

summarily turns down. He scowls saying, “It’s a poor excuse for picking a

man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December. Devoid of any holiday

spirit, he abruptly turns down having dinner with his nephew referring

to Christmas as “humbug,” adding that, “I’m not coming to a stupid ass

party filled with stupid-ass people.”

Scrooge has collected a bucket full of coins, which he dumps on the

floor, snarling that “It was like taking candy from a baby who is

stupid” or “Good hearted people are gullible.” His office is across the

street from an orphanage, which is short of food and Scrooge delights in

having his lunch near the window so that “The orphans can what watch me

eat.” Really, how mean can he get? But wait. Old Scrooge is about to

get his comeuppance and in short order, he experiences the nightmares of

being visited by a variety of ghosts, including his deceased business

partner Jacob Marley, “scarily” played by Joe Liss, as well as Frank

Caeti’s hilarious “The Ghost of Christmas Past,” and “The Ghost of

Christmas Present” played by a very amusing Brendan Jennings. This

gifted ensemble, with crack timing, skillfully transitions into

different characters with very distinct characterizations both vocally

and physically.

Amanda Black as the crippled Tiny Tim was comically spot on with her

uttering such Pollyannaish lines as “The sun peeked through the soot for

a few minutes.” A most talented, amusing Jaime Moyer plays Mrs.

Cratchit, along with other delightful characters. No subject was

satirically off limits and included the actors’ heads poking through cut

outs of some of the Peanuts characters including Charlie Brown, Lucy,

Snoopy, and Linus who argued about the ending of “A Charlie Brown

Christmas.”

One very amusing element is that every once in a while one of the

actors sitting in the audience would interrupt the proceedings to point

out to the actor Ron West/Scrooge that they are mixing periods as there

were “No vertical file cabinets in the nineteenth century or barbershop

quartets.” These interruptions are scattered throughout the evening,

causing the audience, to erupt in laughter that was continuous

throughout the entire production. There are so many funny scenes

including the spoof on Oliver Twist where the orphans have formed Local

101, a union that is demanding more and better food, and not just the

junk they’re being fed. Batman makes an appearance in protest against

Charles Dickens.

Now, remember that audience members were asked to list their worst

offenses and it’s at this point along comes “The Ghost of Jacob Marley”

wearing a garland of the notes written by audience members and he begins

to read some of the sins. The audience howled as confessions were read:

“I took the last piece of my son’s candy,” or “I blinded a parakeet

with a laser printer,” or “I copied off of a kid’s test and wound up

failing because he was stupider than me,” or “I once had twenty hookers

in Malaysia,” or “I was making love on the floor to the husband of a

friend when we heard his wife’s voice coming down the hall and the key

inserted into the lock. We froze. Luckily he had the office locks

changed and her key didn’t fit.”

Experiencing all his ghastly, ghostly visitations, Scrooge becomes

graphically aware of the errors of his mean ways and transitions into a

nice guy, accepting his nephew’s dinner invitation, donating money to

charities and everyone lives happily ever after, with the hilarious

theatrical adventure culminating in an audience sing-along.

The production values are glorious thanks to Costume Designer Leah

Piehl, Lighting Designer Brandon Baruch, Sound Designer Cricket S.

Myers, and Vocal Music Director/Composer David O.

One of the characters asks “Is this heaven?” Another replies: It

can’t be. It’s Culver City.” So, given that it’s easier to get to Culver

City than heaven (depending on traffic, heaven might be easier). you

owe it to yourself to jump into your buggy and trot over to the Kirk

Douglas Theatre where you are assured of washing away any of those

holiday blahs.

Kirk Douglas Theatre

9820 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232

213.628.2772

Run: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday at 8 pm

Thursday at 7 pm & 10 pm

Saturday at 5 pm & 9 pm

Sunday at 3 pm & 7 pm

Closes: Dec. 29, 2013

Tickets and information: CenterTheatreGroup.org or 213.628.2772.

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