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Theatre Review: Trio Of Holiday Shows Mostly Familiar Fare

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, December 10, 2010


When the winter days grow short, and the eggnog flows, many theater companies offer familiar shows that stir childhood memories - you know, "Bah Humbug" and all that. But the B Street Theater's Buck Busfield has a tradition of writing original holiday plays. This year's script is "Northport Cottage," a moody comedy featuring two strangers on a grueling road trip through remote northern Michigan. There isn't a Christmas tree in sight - this play goes in for Native American mysticism. Here savvy old actor Mitch Agruss appears as an auto mechanic.  He's talking with a customer who just hit a young deer, explaining  why it's bad luck if you don't eat the animal.

"See, we believe that by dying at your hands, that deer is making an offering of himself, and by eating him, you accept that offering, and you free him from his past. Everything he's ever done, good and bad, forever. But if you kill one without points, a young one before he's grown, before he's had a full life, and you don't eat him . . . well, he's got to come back, and live his whole life all over, until he can make an offer of himself again."

"And that brings bad luck?"


This philosophical script gets a little sketchy in places, and some scenes lack action because they're conversations in a car. But bottom line…, the actors  - and Agruss in particular - provide "Northport Cottage" with several magical moments.


Capital Stage has revived "Every Christmas Story Ever Told," a popular three actor spoof of holiday entertainment from decades past. In this scene, the actors take down Doctor Seuss, with a nod to Abbott and Costello.

"The Grinch grabbed The Who's tree, up the chimney he shoved, when he heard a small sound, like the coo of a dove. He turned around fast, and he saw a small Who, Little Cindy Lou Who, who was no more than two!"

"Wait a minute, we're missing something."


"Cindy Lou Who."






"Who what?"


"Every Christmas Story Ever Told" features loud guys in silly outfits and bad wigs, doing kitschy skits at breakneck speed.  Bottom line: it's a pop culture fiesta.


And then there's the show that everybody knows. The Sacramento Theater Company's adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" is closing in on its 30th anniversary. This year's version features the stalwart Matt K. Miller as Ebenezer Scrooge.

"What's Christmas time to you but the time for paying bills without money. For finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer. If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips would be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart."



When it comes to holiday shows, "A Christmas Carol" is the founder of the feast. Bottom line: This very familiar revival is perhaps the most heartfelt version I've seen at STC over the past 15 years -


So there you have it! One original contemporary script set in remote terrain, one delirious slapstick comedy, and one iconic standard performed in full regalia. The choice is yours - unless you decide to be a critic yourself, and try all three.

(Music out)

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