BWW Reviews: Seaglass Theatre Offers Twisted Christmas Fare
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by Don Grigware
A Christmas Twist/by Doug Armstrong, Keith Cooper and Maureen Morley/directed by Paul Stroili/Seaglass Theatre Co at the Big Vic of the Victory Theatre Center, Burbank/through December 16
Seaglass Theatre Co is full of the Dickens this holiday season. They are not doling out A Christmas Carol or Oliver Twist but A Christmas Twist, a 1991 sendup by Doug Armstrong, Keith Cooper and Maureen Morley that contains plot elements of both classics shuffled together to much comic effect. This is no great work of literature to be sure, but a laugh fest? Guaranteed. Now at the Big Victory Theatre through December 16, Paul Stroili has smoothly directed a delightfully delectable cast for your enjoyment.
Keeping in tact the Christmas Carol story about Scrooge (Lauren McCormack) and his visitations on Christmas Eve from Jacob Marley (David G. Peryam), and the three ghosts of Christmas Past (Kimberly Van Luin), Present (Alison Blanchard) and Yet to Come (Chris Wynne), what gives Christmas Twist its crazy edge is having Bumble (Paul Stroili) and Fagin (also Chris Wynne) from Oliver Twist make mischief in cahoots with Scrooge...partners in crime, so.to.speak. And of course taking Oliver and renaming him Tiny Twist (David Reynolds) - he's an orphan full grown at 20 - creates more comic havoc, particularly when he gets unofficially adopted by the Cratchits (Warren Davis, Kimberly Van Luin), proclaiming him the son they've always wanted. The three writers Armstrong, Cooper and Morley have gone all out with sight gags, slapstick and a lot of play on words such as "Leave my presence!" "You said we weren't going to exchange this year!" The actors do use British accents, and there are very funny verbal assaults on the language as well as political jabs at Parliament. It's all over-the-top silliness straight out of The Carol Burnett Show or Saturday Night Live.
To say that the ensemble - who all play a variety of roles - are gloriously funny is an understatement. Stroili and McCormack are the only actors playing one character. Bumble wears a large hat, but Stroili wore an even bigger one as the congenial director! Good job, old boy! Scrooge is another huge undertaking and McCormack is most definitely up to the cruelty, gradual befuddlement and redemption. Van Luin is a dream as sweet and proper Emily Cratchit, then veering 360 degrees to don the ditzy ghost and coarse street thief. JEN RAY is a hoot as Little Artful Annie and Blanchard a standout as the ghost of Christmas Present. Wynne, another standout, is divine as Fagin and Mr. Fuzzywig. Kudos as well to Warren Davis as Bob Cratchit, Peryam for his fiendish Marley among others and of course to Reynolds, who, by his very presence, creates gales of laughter. Scott LeGrand's and Paul Stroili's simple set design hits the mark displaying the meagerness of the period and Travis Thi's costumes, just right.
Seaglass, like Christmas, drops by but once a year, but when they do they leave us an unforgettable present of joy. Put A Christmas Twist at the top of your holiday theatre list!