“Marley was dead to begin with.”
And then everything goes to hell. This is Every Christmas Story Ever Told. . .And Then Some currently playing at the Blue Barn Theatre.
Less a play than a piece of Christmas metafiction, this show features three actors, playing highly exaggerated versions of themselves, who delightfully and hilariously educate the audience on Christmas beliefs and traditions from around the world while lampooning various Christmas tales. Susan Clement-Toberer’s masterful direction hits all the right notes as her trio of comic geniuses will have your sides splitting by the time the night is over.
Ben Beck plays the leader of the troupe. A serious actor, he simply wants to share the story of A Christmas Carol. He is constantly thwarted by his two cohorts who would rather run through every Christmas story know to humanity. Beck reluctantly goes along for the ride on the condition that A Christmas Carol is performed as part of the anthology.
Beck is a bit of a hapless sad sack as he constantly gets the short end of the stick in this spectacle. He is forced to play the Grinch, receives impossible questions during a fruitcake quiz show, and is accused of not believing in Santa Claus (which he does not). Yet he bravely soldiers on in pursuit of performing his beloved story. When he finally gets his opportunity, he becomes a manic force of energy as he effortlessly and blitzingly changes identities from Scrooge to George Bailey (doing a Jimmy Stewart that Stewart would envy) on the turn of a dime due to his story getting hijacked by one of the other performers. Beck did trip over his lines on a couple of occasions, but that appeared to be due to the breakneck pace of the show.
Bill Grennan is a riot as he plays a naïve, lovable man-child. He is truly a wide-eyed innocent who loves the Christmas specials of his childhood and still believes in Santa Claus. Grennan’s role is arduous as he constantly zips around the stage and theatre, almost warping between various unusual spots. He’s allowed the chance to do some brilliant character works as he portrays Gustav, the Green-Nosed Reingoat (to avoid copyright infringement), a slightly lascivious Frosty the Snowman (who sounded like Charlie in the Box from Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer), a pirate searching for the white bearded whale, Moby Nick, and a sweet, dramatic turn as Linus Van Pelt delivering the “what Christmas is all about” monologue from A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Grennan also subtly shows that his character may not be as innocent and dimwitted as he appears. He is determined to get his own way and is the one who actually gets the ball rolling on sharing Christmas tales due to his refusal to do A Christmas Carol. Grennan’s usurping Beck’s A Christmas Carol with It’s a Wonderful Life is quite a sly move from someone Beck claims “isn’t the brightest bulb on the tree”.
Teresa Sindelar’s comic acumen has never been sharper than with this performance. Ms Sindelar willingly goes along with Grennan to present all of these Christmas stories, but seems to do it because she simply wants to have fun and not to avoid A Christmas Carol as she willingly assists Beck in his telling of that story in Act II. Her chameleon-like ability to assume any character is allowed to shine as she transforms herself from a slightly psychotic Yukon Cornelius, to a parody of Barbara Walters commentating (sometimes under her breath) on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come earnestly pantomiming an important message to Beck’s Scrooge that nearly had this writer falling out of his chair.
In the end, words cannot do justice to this show. It must be experienced. The sureness of the direction and the devastatingly accurate comic timing of the three performers played out on a stage beautifully designed by Martin Scott Marchitto, painted by Craig Lee, and lit by Carol Wisner makes Every Christmas Ever Told. . .And Then Some a hit for the holidays.
Every Christmas Story Ever Told. . .And Then Some plays at the Blue Barn Theatre though December 21. Tickets are going fast. The only shows with tickets remaining are Dec 11 and 18 at 7:30pm and December 21 at 6pm. Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for students, seniors (65+), TAG members, and groups of ten or more. For reservations, call 402-345-1576. The Blue Barn Theatre is located 614 S 11th St in Omaha, NE.