KPBS AIRDATE: December 10, 2004
If you’ve already had enough family drama this season… get out of the house and go see a show. Theater takes you out of your head, your home and your self-pity, and gives you a different perspective on humanity, humor, music, faith or sheer comic silliness. It’s all out there on San Diego stages. Kid-stuff? Check. Traditional? Yup. Gospel? We got it. Family- fare? You betcha . And for you acidic types who don’t like all the forced festivity… there are several satirical, comical or cynical choices. So, listen up.
The granddaddy of ‘em all is “A Christmas Carol,” the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s 29th incarnation of the timeless Dickens tale of charity and redemption. This one’s set in Victorian England, and the show is trimmed down to a lean, clean intermissionless 90 minutes. Peter Van Norden is terrific as the crotchety Ebenezer, Jonathan McMurtry sparkles as our wry, droll narrator, Charles Dickens. The malleable, multi-talented ensemble makes the production a sheer delight, and inspiring, too.
The shortest and most kid-friendly show is, of course, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at the Old Globe. This is the 7th year for the marvelous book-sprung-to-life. For the second time, David Brannen plays the green meanie ; he’s great fun, and so’s the show. Opening at the Globe this weekend is a longtime favorite, “La Pastorela ,” the backstory of the Nativity story, told by the shepherds. This bilingual satire, presented by Teatro Máscara Mágica , is rife with comedy, singalongs and high spirits. Another oldie but goodie is Lamb’s Players Theatre 27th Festival of Christmas, a series of shows written by Kerry Meads. “Northern Lights” is one of the favorites, a boisterous, musical family saga set in 1962.
Now if you like your music to mix classical with cool, check out “Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration,” based on the Quincy Jones/ Stevie Wonder album of 1992. Produced by Common Ground Theatre, this is a gospel-infused adaptation of the world’s most famous oratorio, transmuted with African drumming and dance, rap, calypso, jazz, blues and superb singing.
Maybe you’re the teeth-gritting type that’s already had it with the carols and cheer. Well, Cygnet Theatre has the perfect seasonal antidote: a duet of Sedaris stagings , including David Sedaris’ hilarious “ Santaland Diaries,” which chronicle that fateful winter he worked as an elf in Macy’s, New York . Under the nimble direction of Sean Murray, Dennis Scott makes Crumpet, the sardonic elf, an enchanting raconteur. On alternate nights, there’s “The Book of Liz,” a David and Amy Sedaris collaboration, the quirky, crazy story of faith, sweat, cheeseballs , Mr. Peanut and Ukrainian immigrants. The cast is great, even if the madcap antics are beyond ridiculous.
See? Just as I said: Something for everyone. So, enjoy. Happy Hanukkah, Kwaanza , Christmas, Solstice… and Humbug.
©2004 Patté Productions Inc.