Carpenter Square's 'Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)' struggles to be anything but messy 

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Carpenter Square Theatre
The Boom
2218 NW 39th
Through Dec. 18 at the Bricktown Hotel & Convention Center
2001 E. Reno
$15-$18, $5 Student Rush
232-6500

At the beginning of "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)" on opening night, the stage lights came up white-hot, and some Christmas lights trimming the stage started flashing. Then, as Michael Gibbons read from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," the lights faded to black and, after a few seconds, came up to what looked like a normal level.

It's hard to say whether this was a light-board malfunction or an intentional theatrical effect. Whatever it was, it was strange.

It's hard to tell because this is a show that wants to be good by being bad. And this is where the Carpenter Square Theatre production misses the mark, not that it had much of a chance in the first place: The show is far too congenial for its own good.

"Traditions are traditional," a cast member says, so if a theater company seeks to satirize something like Christmas and still be taken seriously, it needs to produce work that is far edgier than this fruitcake of a play. In fact, fruitcakes are the subject of one skit. Can you think of a more hackneyed subject for comedic treatment?

Written by Michael Carleton, Jim Fitzgerald and John K. Alvarez, "Every Christmas Story" purports to skewer "BHC" "? that'd be "beloved holiday classics" "? but comes off as something created by cannily clever class clowns, which could be a line from the alliteration-laden script.

The "(And Then Some)" includes innumerable cultural references ranging from Abbott and Costello and "The Wizard of Oz" to a debate on the existence of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and a disquisition on European holiday traditions seemingly intended to terrify children (now there's a subject for a Christmas show).

According to "Every Christmas Story," the real St. Nicholas was the patron saint of murderers, thieves and pawnbrokers. Check it out on Wikipedia, a frequently cited source in the show. Director Rhonda Clark has thrown in much local color, including "? take a guess ... you are correct, sir! "? the B.C. Clark jingle.

One cannot fault the top-notch cast for any shortcomings. Gibbons and Rodney Brazil, both seasoned
veterans, are joined by young Kaleb Michael Bruza, all playing multiple roles. Being good sports about it,
these fine actors generate much energy and perspiration.

The second act conflates "A Christmas Carol" with Frank Capra's movie "It's a Wonderful Life," the "GBHC" "? "greatest beloved holiday classic." Gibbons goes back and forth between playing Ebenezer Scrooge and George Bailey, while Brazil and Bruza play all the other characters in both stories. It's sort of cute, but cuteness is not desirable in theater.

When working with inferior material, the director and cast are burdened with trying to make up for weaknesses in the script. Robert Pittenridge's costumes are fine, but lots of silly headgear and even the lavish false beard worn in one scene by Brazil are not enough. "?Larry Laneer

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