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Dec 28, 2009 - Theater hopping on Reno's Fourth Street and "Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge"
By Jack Neal
Bar hopping is one thing, but when it turns into theater hopping it’s a indication there’s a lot going on in Reno. Last Sunday (12/20/09) was the last time to catch the TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada’s presentation of playwright Christopher Durang’s hilarious “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge.”
Unfortunately, Act I was all I had time to experience (experience is just the right word). “The Messiah” was just itching to be heard at theater-hop II. Tucked into the Studio on Fourth Street, Fourth Street being one of Reno’s most notorious neighborhoods for sleaze, Durang’s spinoff on Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” was quite at home. Reno isn’t London, but oh, how Dickens would have loved Reno’s Fourth Street.
Did old Ebenezer get all humbugged up, when he zipped past thirty or was he a bit of a downer as a kid? What happens when one tasers the Ghost of Christmas Past? What happens when Mrs. Cratchit has had it with wimpish hubby Bob? Bob has a penchant for dragging urchins home and the Mrs. just can’t stand one more kid! After all, they already have 21 no-named little monsters living in the root cellar and the two famous ones via the traditional “A Christmas Carole,” Tiny Tim and Little Nell, turn out to be on the bad-seed side of insufferable.
Who but a nit-witty writer such as Christopher Durang would dare knock the beloved Cratchits off their goody-two-shoes pedestal in favor of an Ebenezer Scrooge so naughty he’s delightfully nice? If you remember Durang’s “Sister Mary Ignitus Explains it all to You” at Reno’s Bruka eight seasons ago, that gives one an idea of how fractured, funny and nutty he makes the Cratchits in this massive and hilarious makeover.
Don’t look for a happy ending, because – in reality – there just can’t be one. Can a real Scrooge really change? Can the really poor be really happy? Director Rodney Hearn doesn’t let such profundities stand in the way of fast-paced, good-clean, in-your-face fun. It was hard to get to know Hearn’s cast in the half-show I saw, but they were all – each and every one – having such a grand time poking fun and having a (please forgive) Dickens of a good time doing it, they were nothing but to be loved.
Phil Harriman was a perfectly cast Ebenezer. Posturing, naughty, wickedly funny, Harriman was an Ebenezer for all Christmas seasons. Stacey Spain (Little Nell, Mrs. Fezziwig) was dressed like a Macy’s Day Parade balloon (costumes by Cathy Averitt – not costumes by Helium) and carried herself with such a bumbling block-off-the-old-chip sophistication she was smashingly irresistible. But, then – ditto for the remainder of the cast who deserve mentions (Brendon Aguiar, Cody Brenner, Autumn Carter, Sunny Christian, Dale Fast, Nasya Mancini, Derek Niegemann, Nancy Podewils, Kristen Steedman) and trusted and worthy crew who deserve mentions, too (Sue Turbow, Melissa Johnson, Staci Baumann, Bryan Hurley, Stephanie Richardson, Richard Brong).
What a refreshingly irreverent show this cast and crew put together.
It’s too late this year, but if “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge” rears its adorably ugly head next season – see it. It’s a marvelous antidote for those suffering from the schmaltz so often associated with the holidays.
TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada will be presenting “Cahoots” February (2010) 19-21 & 26-28, “A Bridge to Terabithia” March (2010) 12-14 & 19-21, and “Dancing at Lughnasa” April (2010) 22-25 & 30-May 2. For information call 775-685-2687.
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