Sunday, November 24, 2013

Irrevent send up of Dickens Christmas Carol is a mixed bag

Last Friday evening (November 22nd), I attended "Twist Your Dickens," a high-energy, send up of Charles Dickens's "Chritsmas Carol" at Portland Center Stage. It takes a very off-kilter approach to the classic story, veering widely over time and genre (with plenty excursions into TV and movies) and relies on improvisation to fuel the laughter. The production was originally created by The Second City, a comedy-centric theater company that is based in Chicago. "Twist Your Dickens" does have a backdrop that looks out on London, circa 1840s, but it quickly interjects modern characters and language into the first scene where Scrooge is busy being his greedy self. So George Bailey from "It's a Wonderful Life," Orphan Annie, Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz," and a host of others get thrown into the mix. Along the way, there's some crude language and songs that plunge briefly into poor taste (Frosty the proctologist), The play's style of humor can also be offensive, especially to religion and people with disabilities, but that is part of the game in this fast-paced, skit-oriented performance. Starring the irrepressible Craig Cackowski as Scrooge, the other members of the cast breeze through a blur of characters that range from Bob Cratchit to Batman. Chantal DeGroat, Sam Dinkowitz, Nicholas Kessler, Beth Melewski, Lauren Modica, and John San Nicolas make an astonishing number of costume changes. Oh yes, the ghosts of the Past, Present, and Future have a role as well, and there's room for audience participation, plus guest cameo appearances like Grimm's Sasha Roiz, who introduced one of the skits. I enjoyed the show even though I didn't find it as funny as the audience around me. They were laughing pretty hard all evening long.

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