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Theatre Review: Holiday Triple Play



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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
1213JH scroogeWe start this tour at the Sacramento Theatre Company, which is presenting that one truly iconic Christmas play - you know, with the dour old businessman who speaks a famous line.

Scrooge: "Humbug!"

Fred: "Don't be angry uncle."

Scrooge: "Why not? What's Christmastime to you but a 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 that goes about with 'Merry Christmas on his lips would be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a steak of holly through his heart."

Fred: "Uncle!"

Scrooge: "Nephew."

Now I've seen six different actors play Scrooge over three decades at the Sacramento Theater Company. And I have to say Matt K. Miller has really grown into the role. His transformation from heartless skinflint into generous soul has become more convincing each time around.

There aren't many surprises, but this year's version of the old chestnut is uncommonly sensitive to the plight of the poor and the homeless. Which means Charles Dickens' 163-year-old morality tale remains quite timely. Bottom line: this venerable local production still delivers the goods.

1213JH every christmasOver at Capital Stage, they've brought back "Every Christmas Story Ever Told," this time in their new venue. This three-actor revue opens by asserting the Dickens classic is plain worn out.

Gary Martinez: "Everybody's seen it, Everybody knows it. God bless us everyone. Bah humbug. Nice ghost, fat ghost, scary ghost. Yadda yadda yadda."

So instead, this show spoofs holiday season movies, TV specials and even commercials from decades past.

[CAST SINGING] "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch. You're an evil, rotten soul!"

This rapid-fire pop culture barrage is fueled by bad puns, pratfalls, parody and audience participation. The fresh jokes in this year's version include a one-liner about pepper spray at UC Davis. Bottom line: If you're looking for laughs, you'll find them here. 

Our last stop is the B Street Theatre, which is once again presenting an original play written by Buck Busfield. It's a romantic comedy called "Watching Wynter," and it's set in. . . Milwaukee.

The story involves a plump, graying mom, who's worried that her unemployed 30-ish couch potato of a son is wasting his life playing video games. So she arranges a dinner, and invites the skinny, eccentric girl next door. This sets up an unusual mother-son exchange:

1213JH wynterSon: If you asked a girl here to meet me without telling me…

Mom: Something like that, yeah.

Son: I would kill you.

Mom: Would you cut out my heart.

Son: I would cut out your heart!

Mom: And I'd forgive you.

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about the holidays, doesn't it? But the show's funniest moment comes when the clock strikes midnight and the girl next door decides to practice her trombone - that's right, a big, loud, gleaming, brassy trombone. And she puts some sisterhood and soul into it, as her eyes get as big as saucers. 

[Trombone tooting, audience laughing]

This new play probably won't end up in the Hall of Fame, but it has several appealing aspects. Bottom line: If you're seeking a fresh alternative, and you like offbeat comedy, "Watching Wynter" will keep you entertained.

So there you have it: three diverse December shows. One steeped in tradition, another that spoofs pop culture, and a brand new romantic comedy.

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The Sacramento Theatre Company's production of "A Christmas Carol" continues through December 24th .  Capital Stage presents "Every Christmas Story Every Told" through January 1st.  And the B Street Theatre's "Watching Wynter" continues through December 31

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