PLEASE SIR, WE WANT SOME MORE
SeaGlass Theatre only does one show a year, which is remarkable, since they’re such a spirited bunch. For instance, it’s a shame to miss Paul Stroili any time he’s onstage: I’ve seen him do outrageously good work in good productions, like the last SeaGlass offering, Steven Berkoff’s Kvetch – but even higher praise is that he manages to be very good in awful stuff, like a recent hack job on Ibsen’s Ghosts. This holiday season, Mr. Stroili’s acting in and directing SeaGlass’s revival of Doug Armstrong, Keith Cooper, and Maureen Morley’s 1991 A Christmas Twist. And if you like low puns and high jinks, this extremely fun show could serve as a hangover remedy to the treacle overdose you may feel at this time of year.
A splice-and-dice of A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, the play performs a brisk, cynical ravaging of Charles Dickens’ most treasured tales. Much amusement comes from the manner of the mix, so I won’t say much except that the second-most famous orphan in fiction, Oliver, gets subsumed into the character of Tiny Twist (David Reynolds) and adopted by the Bob Cratchits (Warren Davis and Kimberly Van Luin). A murder plot by Scrooge (Lauren McCormack), his nephew Mr. Bumble (Stroili), and Tiny’s associate Fagin (Chris Wynne) thickens a thin story; Alison Blanchard (Ghost of Christmas Present), Jen Ray (Little Artful Annie), and David G. Peryam (Marley) add color. Most of the actors play multiple roles, which contributes to the silliness and general delight.
A piece like this, light and swift, requires broad characterizations and quick actors. This cast is eager and capable. Chris Wynne and Lauren McCormack wield a special affinity for this sort of thing, and at the risk of being mistaken for a protesting lover, I must mention Paul Stroili again. Having played Tiny Twist in the original Chicago production by the Illegitimate Players, Mr. Stroili clearly has a connection to this material. But beyond that, he’s the kind of performer whose entrances bring with them a sense of comfort. We know that nothing will go wrong when he’s onstage. In a town whose theatrical offerings usually include at least one flubbed line, he’s a commodity of inflated value. His direction, too, does all that can be done to keep up with the mile-a-minute script. He’s obviously, and wisely, rehearsed the scene changes as much as the actual scenes, correcting an oversight that repeatedly stalled the action in Kvetch, which he did not direct and which otherwise was really beautiful.
But Kvetch had the advantage of Steven Berkoff’s writing, whereas A Christmas Twist, though ostensibly a riff on the work of another genius, has not. This show does little in the way of depth-plumbing or even shallow investigation of Dickens’ tendencies, tricks or tropes. This play explores the human condition to an extent that would fit into Scrooge’s generosity gland. But the script, and the production, make no pretense to feats of intellectual engineering. They’re primarily concerned with irreverence. And so this show is a perfect place to bring out-of-towners from flyover country, the prospect of whose cheery faces across the dinner table sinks one’s heart to the bottom of the gravy boat.
photos by Melissa McCormack
A Christmas Twist
SeaGlass Theatre at Victory Theatre Center in Burbank
scheduled to end on December 16, 2012
for tickets, visit http://www.seaglasstheatre.org/twist_tickets/