Theater

Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge

Phoenix Theatre

Directed by Bryan Fonseca

Through Dec. 26 From left: Diane Kondrat, Karen Irwin, Bill Simmons and B.J. Whetstine are the Cratchit family in Christopher Durang's 'Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge' at the Phoenix Theatre through Dec. 26.

Tired of passé holiday fare? The Phoenix Theatre is offering a truly twisted version of A Christmas Carol: Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge.

As the name suggests, Mrs. Bob is much more prominent in this version. The Ghost - all three taken on by one - is having problems getting her and Scrooge where they need to be, and they keep stumbling into scenes of the despondent Mrs. Bob getting drunk and trying to throw herself off London Bridge.

No aspect of Carol is sacred - everything gets sent up, from Tiny Tim's lameness and ridiculous good humor, to Bob Cratchit's kind nature, expressed here in his obsession with collecting foundlings - over 20 of them, who reside in the root cellar.

The cast does hilarious work. Gayle Steigerwald as the taser-toting Ghost is a riot in her bumbling attempt to help Scrooge. Max Henschen as Scrooge - described as a man with seasonal tourette's syndrome - is calm and controlled; his contempt for humanity is less caricature, more snooty loathing. Bill Simmons and B.J. Whetstine as Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim are disgustingly happy in their obliviousness to reality, and Karen Irwin as "Little Nell" (right, she has to be at least 6-foot) is a spectacle in her sweat-shop-remnants sweater and pathetic attempts at gift-giving. But Diane Kondrat as Mrs. Cratchit is the star here - and when she is on stage her foul attitude reigns. Here, Mrs. Cratchit is an overworked, bad-humored, miserable woman who verbally abuses her family regularly. The Cratchits' family dynamics are dysfunction to infinity.

Last Thursday's show was packed to overflowing, so make reservations and get there early. Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge continues through Dec. 26 at the Phoenix Theatre, 749 N. Park Ave., 635-PLAY, www.phoenixtheatre.org.

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