By Beki Pineda
TWIST YOUR DICKENS – Written by Peter Swinn and Bobby Mort; Directed by Matthew R. Wilson. Produced by The Aurora Fox Arts Center (9900 East Colfax, Aurora) through December 23. Tickets available at 303-739-1970 or aurorafoxartscenter.org.
If you are expecting the traditional Ye Olde Morality Play with a few jokes thrown in, you ain’t gonna get it here. This production – born in the minds of two Second City alumni and former Colbert Report writers – gives free rein to the creative minds of each new cast. While providing a framework of comedy sketches with some (however loose) connection to the classic Dickens, it also invites the lampooning of every other holiday tradition, both old and new. We get parodies of the Three Kings conversation as they journey toward the star; we get a song that celebrates orphans through the years up to and including Little Orphan Annie in her Broadway configuration; we get a slow motion version of Black Friday shoppers fighting over big screen TV’s – and that’s just the beginning.
What adds to the humor of the evening is its unexpected quality. We’ve all grown so complacent with the familiar script that to hear a scene start with the usual words and then explode into something entirely different is much more comedic. Jacob Marley, for instance, makes his dramatic entrance and starts his diatribe about living the good life. Then he calmly starts pulling his (paper) chain apart and reading off some of the audience remarks (written in the lobby as you arrive) about the naughtiest things they’ve done in their lives. When they actually try to bring out the true Christmas Carol story, it is enhanced by a drunk woozy Ghost of Christmas Present. When the audience is invited to describe Belle’s new suitor after she breaks up with a young Scrooge, it is suggested that his hobby is underwater basket weaving. Which leads to the studly appearance of an actor clad in oversized flippers carrying a huge basket.
This talented cast of players (which includes Jessica Austgen, Sean Michael Cummings, Ilasiea Gray, Seth Palmer Harris, Sara Milbrath, and Charlie Schmidt) embrace the goofiness of the Second City script and bring some of their own into the proceedings. Eric Sandoval plays the principal character of Scrooge, to whom most of this is happening while the rest of the cast riffs on the skits. His bewilderment and surprise is crucial to the comedy. But he does get in his own kicks. When asked by Bob Cratchit for the day off because of it being Christmas Day, he retorts, “I don’t care if it’s Jesus’ birthday!” Seth Palmer Harris starts as a disgruntled audience member who objects to all the anachronisms in the early part of the show, but quickly gets drawn into the madcap happenings on stage.
The second act lampoons everything from the “real” ending of “A Charley Brown Christmas” to “A Wonderful Life” to Rudolph. Putting aside the life lessons of Dickens’ tale in exchange for modern humor, this essentially G-rated comic version plays it for laughs and succeeds. As a break from the more traditional offerings of stage and church groups, take an evening for laughs at the Aurora Fox.
A WOW factor of 8.5!