Every Christmas Story Ever Told!!
Directed by R. Brian Noffke
Through Dec. 23
A piece from Nel Bannier's 'Human Form in Clay,' at the Indianapolis Art Center through Dec. 11.
Possibly the funniest holiday offering since Woody Rau's Fire at the North Pole, Every Christmas Story Ever Told!! is a hilarious send-up of, well, every Christmas story ever told.
It all starts because the cast - Tony McDonald, Andy Rabensteine and Michael T. Downey - is supposed to be performing yet another rendition of A Christmas Carol. Andy and Michael revolt, to the chagrin of Tony, and begin re-telling Christmas classics, from The Gift of the Magi (in 10 seconds) to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (whoops, copyright issues - make that Gustaf the Green-Nosed Reingoat) to Carol mashed together with It's a Wonderful Life. The show is like Christmas Xtream.
Interspersed between skits are tidbits from Christmas Around the World: scary (and funny) traditions that are all too improbable.
From Tony as a creepy Grinch to Michael as a creepy Fruitcake Dating Game host to Andy as a creepy Clara in The Nutcracker, these guys give it their all - and their all is top-notch throughout. Laughs are continuous and sometimes guffaws. A couple in-jokes for the theater community are icing on the fruitcake.
This is a highly recommended alternative to cut-and-dry Christmas offerings. Little kids, though, might be confused - high schoolers and up are the best bet.
Every Christmas Story Ever Told!! continues at the Phoenix Theatre, under the tight direction of R. Brian Noffke, through Dec. 23, Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Additional performances are Dec. 20-21, 7 p.m. Tickets are $25; $15 for those 24 and under. Call the Phoenix, 749 N. Park Ave., at 317-635-PLAY, www.phoenixtheatre.org.
Theatre for the Living Dead: Four Unearthed One-Acts
Arden Theatre Company
Theatre on the Square
Through Dec. 17
Matt Graber and Alan Shepard - yeah, you know you are going to get strange theater.
The four one-acts in Theatre for the Living Dead - two world premieres and two that were dragged back from the dead - are authored by either Shepard or Graber. The show gets its name from the last one performed, as the four have nothing in common save their authors. In fact, going from one to the other is strangely reminiscent of hitting the button for the Improbability Drive in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
The show begins with "Dead Cat for Huey" (written and directed by Shepard), featuring John Rice, a Huey Lewis fan that the word "obsessed" doesn't begin to explain, and Josh Ramsey, his heckling friend. (Show-goers last weekend may have missed Ramsey, who was in the hospital, but who I caught Sunday.) Rice is mailing his dead cat, named after Huey, to Mr. "Power of Love" himself, and hilarity ensues.
The tone shifts with "Styx" (written by Graber, directed by Catherine Peterson). It is a long, almost draggy, look at the nature of the afterlife. Not really comedy; not deep enough to be drama.
After intermission, Shepard (writer and director) tries to see how many offensive words he can pack into one sentence with the hit-and-miss "Two Things." Ramsey, Leroy "Popcorn" Lewis and Rice sit around a diner table and discuss their screwed up love/sex lives. A few good zingers are embedded here, but the concept gets tiring after about five minutes. The combination of camaraderie and verbal brutality is an interesting mix, however.
And, finally, the highlight of the evening is Graber's "My Dinner with A Zombie." Adam Hesse is a gooey, floppy, moaning mound of drooling entertainment. Backed up by Shepard, Rice and Lindsay Harbert, this is the climax the show was waiting for.
For 10 bucks, yeah, this is a night of satisfying, weird theater.
Theatre for the Living Dead: Four Unearthed One-Acts continues through Dec. 17 on Theatre on the Square's second stage, 627 Massachusetts Ave. Call 317-460-9396 for information.