Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: DECEMBER 18, 2009
So, how do you like your holiday fare? Tasty and familiar? Or tart and unpredictable? Of course, your palate might take to the acidic and the sweet.
If you’re something of a traditionalist, you should head straight to North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach , for their third annual rendition of the beloved Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol.”
Did you know that the great Victorian novelist practically invented Christmas as we know it? In the 1840s, celebration of the holiday was in deep decline. But Dickens’ hugely popular novella, along with his highly acclaimed public performances of the piece, brought back caroling and gift-giving, wassail, tree-decorating, parties and all manner of festivity. The story of skinflint Scrooge, with his heart-stirring, overnight salvation and redemption, reminds us about the true intent of the season. And this version, commissioned by North Coast Rep and adapted by former San Diegan Jacqueline Goldfinger, is decidedly family-friendly. It’s a whirlwind, lightning-fast ride, perfect for kids’ short attentions. There’s singing all through, and the ghosts are somewhat, but not too too scary. The sound and lighting are terrific, and they make this spooky tale extra fun. At the center of a delightful cast is local favorite Jonathan McMurtry brings his snarling “Humbug” sneers to the beginning and an avuncular giddiness to the end. The details of story and character may speed by a bit too fast for deep enjoyment, but all the words are Dickens’ and his marvelous language and descriptions are an especial highlight.
But if you’re feeling a little misanthropically Scrooge-like yourself, you might fancy a bit of Crumpet this season instead. He’s the Macy’s elf, portrayed by David Sedaris in his younger, leaner years, when he was an out-of-work writer, before he became a best-selling humorist. His tale of holiday woe, first broadcast on NPR, gives us all the gritty behind-the-scenes dirt at a mega-sized Santa playland , written in his unique and inimitable voice – which is fey, whiney and sardonic. Funnyman Daren Scott brings his own hilariously sarcastic personality to the mix, and at the same time, perfectly captures the essence of Sedaris, that ultimate strychnine-laced sugar-plum fairy.
At New Village Arts in Carlsbad , under the nimble direction of Kristianne Kurner, Scott navigates the soul-crushing roller-coaster ride of humiliations endemic to this sort of artificially-gleeful environment, plagued by pushy parents and fearful, crying or puking kids. Scott inhabits them all, effortlessly shifting characters, accents, genders and dialects, while forced to wear a truly dreadful green velvet suit, accessorized by the requisite turned-up elfin shoes. Guaranteed to grow the heart of any Grinch. But leave the kiddies at home; this is strictly adult-strength cynicism.
Leave it to theater… to offer you an iconic – or ironic — Christmas!
“The Santaland Diaries” runs through December 23 at New Village Arts in Carlsbad .
“A Christmas Carol” continues through 12/27 at North Coast Repertory Theatre.
©2009 PAT LAUNER