Rarely Done spoofs many holiday chestnuts in Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!)
Seasons cretins: Josh Mele and Jordan Glaski in Rarely Done’s Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!).
True to form, Rarely Done Productions’ holiday effort goes against the expected grain. Thus, Marley has been dead seven years at the beginning of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and he should appear twice, at the front door and later in chains. But in this telling when Ebenezer approaches his shabby home he’s startled to find a man with dreadlocks sporting a large red, green, yellow and black knit cap. Whoa! It’s toked-up Bob Marley, not Jacob Marley, Ebenezer’s late partner. Moments later Ebenezer’s inside when he runs into another apparition. No, still not Jacob Marley, it’s Clarence Oddbody, the angel who can’t get his wings until he saves George Bailey from jumping off the bridge. How the Dickens did these guys get to mid- Victorian London?
Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald and John K. Alvarez’s Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some), now at Jazz Central, 441 E. Washington St., calls for the action to begin more or less straight. An actor with a top hat and a severe mien (Lou Leonardo; all players use their offstage names), speaking with an authentic British accent, intones the familiar opening lines of A Christmas Carol, when a figure in chains emerges from the wings. It’s Jordan Glaski, who groans that he’s tired out doing this show. Everybody knows every line because it’s been done to death. Stopping the action, they are joined by a third player, Josh Mele, as they address the audience.
“Maybe we should be doing something else?” they plead. And then they call out, “What are the Beloved Holiday Classics?” (Later known as “BHCs). The answers could be predicted from two generations of TV shows and movies: A Charlie Brown Christmas. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Frosty the Snowman. The Grinch that Stole Christmas. White Christmas. It’s a Wonderful Life. And the Norelco shaver ad. It does not appear that there are any programmed stooges in the audience because there don’t have to be. Nobody mentions the Gospels. And given that Every Christmas Story is about six years old, nobody brings up more recent classics, like David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries or Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story, the latter appearing five blocks away at Syracuse Stage.
What follows is a fast-paced spoof and deconstruction, if that’s not too heavy a word. From a distance this must sound like Daniel Singer, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor’s Shakespeare Abridged series, and as far as surprise and madcap pacing go, they are to a certain degree alike. But characters that are essentially cartoons are already spoofed and their narratives are not as sustained. The threesome gets the most mileage from the Rudolph story, partially because everybody knows all the words, but transforms him into a green-nosed reingoat instead.
Other parts of the first act are scattershot, with allusions to bleak folktales from different European countries where misbehaving small children are subject to frightening punishments. Also up for parody is a section about Iceland (pronounced “EES-lund”) and celebrations of inedible Scandinavian fare like lutefisk, which is buried under ground to encourage fermentation.
In the spirit of ecumenism, the boys also do a dance in animal costumes for Kwanzaa, with its iteration of hard-to-remember abstraction. And also the Jewish Festival of Lights, which is always pronounced “HON-uk-kuh,”