Backstage Review: ‘Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge’

~By Norm Robins~

~Photos by Zen Media~

This screwball parody of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with an update or two is a hoot—no, make that a hoot-and-a-half. It is hysterical from stem to stern and beginning to end. Playwright Christopher Durang (Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You) turns a very serious 19th Century study of morality versus practicality and grinding poverty versus extreme wealth into an uproarious comedy.

The Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future leads us through a futile attempt to redeem intensely practical Scrooge. Of course, it doesn’t work. She (the Ghost) is a hopeless underachiever. She transports us from time to time and place to place and invariably ends up somewhere other than her intended destination. But Scrooge is irredeemable. He hates Christmas. Durang divides Mrs. Cratchit into two, a nice Mrs. Cratchit married to Bob Cratchit and a nasty Mrs. Cratchit who keeps trying to kill herself by jumping off London Bridge. Scrooge, bah humbugging his way through the play, falls in love with nasty Mrs. Cratchit. Who woulda thunk? But, it seems like a perfect match.

Durang begins the play showing Cratchit working for skinflint Scrooge. Cratchit’s salary is a pittance. Two salesmen show up, Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, both of Enron notoriety, selling “energy units”. Okay okay, so this takes place in 1840 England. It’s poetic license. Scrooge takes their bait and becomes their salesman. His first customer is none other than Cratchit. Scrooge cuts his salary roughly in half and sells some units to him. Being the Panglossian schmuck he is, Cratchit is thrilled by the idea.

On the way home he finds an abandoned baby so he brings it home to Mrs. Cratchit who goes bonkers over it. She already has 20 children 16 of whom are kept hidden in the root cellar.

“Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge” is a slightly off-kilter look at an alternate meaning of Christmas through the eyes of a sassy if not less than talented Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Full of parody, Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge is a welcome twist for the holiday season.

~Dana Nöllsch~

Nasty Mrs. Cratchit wishes she had never been born. An angel descends from heaven and shows this suicidal woman what her family would be like if she had never been born. We see a loving family with a loving wife—a different one. Life for this family is glorious. Their poverty is oppressive, but it doesn’t matter. They have each other and their morality.

In the meanwhile Mrs. Cratchit turns into another Ebenezer Scrooge. The Ghost figures they were born into the wrong century and transports them (this time correctly) into modern times. Since the new Mrs. Cratchit already exists the old Mrs. Cratchit must become someone else. This suits her. She becomes Leona Helmsley, the notorious New York hotelier who dismisses ordinary people as “the little people”.

In the end the Ghost tries to explain it all to tie up the loose ends, but falls short of succeeding (again). Who cares? It doesn’t matter because it all ends in a song. In keeping with the tenor of the play it’s a confused song. Go figure. Perhaps Durang is parodying himself.

This is an ensemble piece with a large cast of great actors and a great director that will leave you in stitches. It is a musical with a pianist and a handbell performer and some nice song and dance routines. Stacy Johnson who plays the first Mrs. Cratchit is a fine curmudgeonly comedienne who steals the show.

CAST:

The Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future……..Annalize Sanders

Ebenezer Scrooge………………………………………….Kevin McCray

Bob Cratchit…………………………………………………Robert Simpson

Mrs. Cratchit…………………………………………………Stacy Johnson

Tiny Tim………………………………………………………Mackenzie Hamel

Mrs. Fezziwig/Little Nell…………………………………….Amanda Alvey

Gentleman 1/Mr. Fezziwig/Edvar/Clarence………………Ryan Costello

Gentleman 2/The Beadle/George…………………………Jasper Allen Unger IV

Young Jacob Marley/Hedvig……………………………….Paige Tatem

Young Ebenezer Scrooge/Cratchit Child 1………………Ashley James

Cratchit Child 2/Minion……………………………………..Jayton Newbury

Jacbo Marley/Bartender/Minion……………………………John Walmsley

Nice Mrs. Cratchit/Lovely Irish Voice……………………..Sophie Moeller

The Beadle’s Wife/Zuzu/Serena…………………………..Sara Mackie

Written by Christopher Durang

Directed by Jamie Woodham

Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge plays at Good Luck Macbeth, 124 W. Taylor St., Reno 89509 November 29th through December 21st. For ticket information go to www.goodluckmacbeth.org or call 775-322-3716.

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