Holiday theater roundup
Annoyance Christmas Pageant
Annoyance Theatre. Dir. Megan Kelleher. With ensemble cast.
Perhaps the best time to see the Annoyance’s annual undertaking—this year the company stages the stories of A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas back to back—is the Sunday matinee, when the wee ’uns abound. Laughter begets laughter: Their howls of joy upon seeing the Grinch slither around on his belly, stuffing presents in his sack, certainly will boost your own chuckles. Not that this show needs much help. Wholly embracing the aesthetic of both animated tales, the cast members walk in tiny steps and dance repetitively, as Schulz’s people do; then they don Seussian costumes (tacky sweaters, antennae) while the Grinch perfects his massive hair swoosh and propensity for leering at Whoville residents. The stories are flawlessly executed—when Sally professes her love to Linus, cartoonishly silly hearts float around them. —Steve Heisler
A Holiday Evening of Mime
The Mime Company at Raven Theatre. Created by the Mime Company. Dir. Eliot Monaco. With ensemble cast.
These are not genius mimes; they’re just pretty good mimes. Alas, pretty good miming can’t carry off two hours of sketches centered on trite holiday themes. You’d have to be pretty ga-ga for Christmas shtick to enjoy watching a mime-mom and mime-dad put together their kid’s invisible bike on Christmas Eve. Can you believe mime-dad doesn’t think he needs to read the invisible instructions? Marcel Marceau’s talents couldn’t survive watered-down gags about running out of tape while wrapping presents or stealing Santa’s milk and cookies. When the subjects are more varied—as in a scene where the company groups together to become a surprisingly compelling tree going through the seasons—the result is much improved. Best wait to see the Mime Company after holiday fever has passed. —Ruth Welte
It’s a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play
American Theater Company. Adapted from the film by Frank Capra. Dir. Damon Kiely. With Stef Tovar, Mary Winn Heider.
ATC’s reimagining of Capra’s classic as period radio play comes complete with a live Foley artist, vintage advertisements between acts and audience-written audiograms (you write it, they read it). The show starts the moment the doors open: The cast mingles with audience members and encourages them to join in singing carols; the homey atmosphere makes you feel like you just stepped inside an old friend’s living room. The story translates well into this format, and it’s a joy to watch the talented cast hop nimbly among multiple roles. It’s not even weird that game Heider plays George Bailey’s mother and wife. —Jessica Johnson
Silent Night of the Lambs
Hell in a Handbag Productions at Mary’s Attic. By Ryan Landry. Dir. Will Rogers. With Samantha McDonald, Derek Czaplewski, David Cerda.
Those camp-loving elves at Hell in a Handbag deliver an entertaining mash-up of Christmas lore and The Silence of the Lambs. To catch a serial killer, criminologist reindeer Clarice (McDonald, a great comic straight man) must extract info from the criminally insane Kris Kringle (Czaplewski, hilarious). He sends her around the world after impenetrable clues, which gives Landry an excuse to toss around Christmas jokes and pop-culture references. The former work well, the latter not so much. (Does a Joan Rivers cameo still count as pop culture? Or funny?) The supporting cast relies a bit too much on screaming really loud to get a laugh, but McDonald and Czaplewski know how to play it cool. Real cool. —Hank Sartin