Thu10302014

Food & Wine

Bus Barn's 'Binge' is good holiday fun for the whole family

In a fiendishly funny send-up of Christmas past, present and future, the Bus Barn Stage Company cast of "Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge" raises Christopher Durang's satire to an uproarious level of fun.

Durang's popular play parodies some of Christmas' sacred lambs through a cast of Dickensian characters from "A Christmas Carol."

Ebenezer Scrooge is once again on a mission to be bad, and this time he's flanked by an incompetent Ghost of Christmases (Alexaendrai Bond). But somehow, while trying to redeem the scowling old man, the two find themselves confronting an even scarier personality. The cynical Mrs. Cratchit is fed up with Tiny Tim and now she's threatening to jump off the London Bridge.

The set up is amusing. Scrooge is a scumbag of modern proportions - making deals with his notorious business partner Kenneth Lay. Other clever anachronisms make this play a delightful break from the typical holiday fare. James Mantell plays the disgruntled Scrooge with a tongue-in-cheek silliness, barking "Bah humbug" like a man with Tourette's.

Meanwhile, young Tiny Tim, played with a zealous, addicting charm by Anna Powell, watches as his mother Mrs. Cratchit (Diahanna Davidson) loses her mind. Davidson is delightfully miserable as a woman at wit's end, perpetually insulting her children and downing tequila shots.

Once in a while, however, the pace of the show snags. The momentum of Davidson's brash raving and her relentless insults grow tiresome. Even in her cartoon-like indulgences, playing Mrs. Cratchit with a more slow-building rage might be more entertaining.

Even so, the cast breaks up the morbid humor about death with fast-paced energy. Young Jeremy Kelem is charming as the much-ignored second child in the Cratchit family. Shannon Stowe skillfully plays multiple roles as the painfully ecstatic Mrs. Fezziwig and the well-meaning Little Nell.

Laura Jane Bailey is alarmingly funny as a bawdy alcoholic. She bounds across the small stage with a crazed energy.

One hilariously delivered scene also carries a painful undertow. Two Dutch lovers, donning enormous wooden clogs, are exchanging Christmas gifts. In shrill, melodramatic tones, each lover finds the other has sacrificed something they love to buy the other a gift.

Durang's play, while appropriate for the whole family, also offers the most seasoned cynic some relief from the typical holiday shows - alluding to some unpleasant truths in raucous and silly form.

The play runs through Dec. 16 at the Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave., Los Altos. Tickets are $24-$30. For times and reservations, call 941-0551 or visit www.busbarn.org.

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