Thursday, December 7, 2017

Twilight’s Christmas Offering Just Too Funny…

Craig Fitzpatrick (Jim), Rob Harris (Michael), and Greg Shilling (John)

By Tina Arth

All hope of a serious and respectful holiday show flew up the chimney when I saw that Twilight Theater Company was doing Carleton, Alvarez and Knapp’s Every Christmas Story Even Told (and then some) – but then again, pious inspiration really isn’t consistent with Twilight’s quirky brand anyway. Director Dorinda Toner and her three-man cast (the hardest working guys in show biz, imho) instead deliver two hours of seriously sidesplitting humor as they zip in and out of every Christmas carol and story you can think of (and several more).

The premise is simple – three actors are supposed to do a performance of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and the stage lights come up on a lone actor, Jim, ponderously reciting the opening lines: “Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.” Enter John and Michael, interrupting Jim (the first of several times he is cut off in mid-recital), to make it clear that they have NO interest in doing yet another performance of the Dickens’ classic. By the end of Act I, the three actors have not only lovingly satirized Dickens’ work, but also Dr. Seuss (the Grinch), Charlie Brown (the dance number is unforgettable – surpassed only by the severely abridged Nutcracker), Frosty the Snowman, Gustav the Green-Nosed Reingoat (no copyright infringements!) and several others, accompanied by Lola Toner’s stunning arrangement of The Most Famous Carols of All (Every Carol Ever Sung). The two audience participation numbers (where reluctant audience members are enthusiastically shepherded to the stage) are not only fun (at least for the rest of us) but surprisingly effective (on the evening I was there, Contestant #3 was so good she could have been, but wasn’t, a plant). When the actors finally get around to A Christmas Carol in Act II, the mash-up with It’s A Wonderful Life is both hilarious and surprisingly apropos.

The three actors (aided by a couple of equally hard-working crew members) change costumes and characters with dizzying speed at times. Craig Fitzpatrick’s “Jim” is the diehard traditionalist, constantly trying to bring the story back to Dickens, while Greg Shilling plays the ditzy and slightly campy “John” – always willing to throw himself into the next whacko holiday role. Most interesting at times is Rob Harris’ “Michael,” the sly instigator who undermines Jim at every turn by encouraging John’s frenetically enthusiastic performance (and then joining him in the insanity).

Josiah Greene’s minimalist sets and Chris Byrne’s seemingly impromptu costuming are invaluable in convincing us that we are watching Dickens gone awry rather than a carefully planned evening of parody.  Words like “funny,” “zany,” and “hysterical” really cannot begin to capture the quality of this show’s humor – the only way to appreciate it is to go!

Twilight Theater Company’s Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some) is playing at the Performing Arts Theater, 7515 N. Brandon Avenue, Portland through December 17th with performances at 8 P.M. Friday and Saturday and 3:00 P.M. on Sunday.


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