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Renegade Holidays

By Lesa Kastanas

In these uncertain times, traditional holiday entertainment doesn't always fit the bill. Singing Christmas trees and Nutcrackers aside, this might be the year to flaunt tradition. Count on these seasonal offerings to surprise, school, shock, rewind and redneck you into the proper holiday humor.

Sister's Christmas Catechism – The Mystery of the Magi's Gold

Dec. 2-14; Booth Playhouse, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, 130 N. Tryon St.

Manger Mystery: Expect the same firm but friendly hand that Sister employs in the popular “Late Nite Catechism” comedy, where obedience and proper etiquette (no gum chewing!) are still expected. This performance is holiday bound and determined to uncover the mystery behind the missing gold of the Magi. That's right, Sister goes “CSI.”

Crime Time: Sister wraps the story of the babe in the manger in crime scene tape and employs her own forensic tools to solve the mystery. Assisted by a local choir and plenty of sheepish audience members, the result is a living Nativity crime scene re-enactment that's funny without pushing the envelope too hard. Expect the loudest laughs from the parochial school kids (ruler marks still evident).

Good to Know: Sister advises that while perfume is an acceptable present for a nun, you should refrain from Obsession, My Sin or any fragrance with Elizabeth Taylor's name on it.

Info: Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m. and Sunday, 3 p.m. $20-$34. 704-372-1000; blumenthalcenter.org.

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues

Dec. 10-21; Actor's Theatre, 650 E. Stonewall St.

Reindeer Games: Chip Decker directs this twisted romp by irreverent playwright Jeff Goode. When one of the eight tiny reindeer accuses the fat man of sexual harassment, scandal erupts. Expect to be shocked by all manner of North Pole secrets and perversions as recounted by the sacred sleigh team.

12-Step Xmas: The Eight reminds us ( with a wink) that the holidays are rarely a Hallmark card and that no one is immune to family dysfunction – even the Kringles. Bring your sense of sarcasm, and leave those under 16 at home.

Cabaret Play: Actor's Theatre is serving up two wicked holiday tales, cabaret-style. “The Eight” and David Sedaris' “The Santaland Diaries.” Special pricing is available for those who want to see both.

Info: $15 for “The Eight”; $20, “Santaland Diaries.” Schedule: actors theatrecharlotte.org; 704-342-2251, ext 1.

Just Do It: 'Tis the Season

Dec. 19; Theatre Charlotte, 501 Queens Road

Diff'rent Strokes: Theatre Charlotte's Just Do It series serves up unexpected holiday fun when local creatives take the main stage at Theatre Charlotte, complete with lights, sound and an audience. Included in every Just Do It event is Charlotte's only ongoing modern soap opera, “City Queens.” Get a recap of the last episode and stay tuned for the latest installment. Before and after, enjoy refreshments with performers in the lobby.

Tinsel Talent: Amateur or professional, if you've got something to say or to show, here's your chance. Fiction and nonfiction writers, playwrights, bloggers, spoken-word artists, poets, actors, singers, musicians, dancers, choreographers, filmmakers, photographers, comedians and folks TC hasn't even yet considered are welcome to present or perform in this ongoing series – and pretty much anything goes.

Info: 8 p.m. $5. theatrecharlotte.org. To participate in upcoming JDI events, 704-376-3777;

justdoit charlotte@yahoo.com.

It's a Wonderful Life:

A Live Radio Play

Dec. 15-18; North Carolina Stage Company, Duke Energy Theatre, Spirit Square, 345 N. College St.

Rewind Time: Before HDTV, TiVo and iPods, folks got news, heard music and listened to comedians and dramas on the radio. You just tuned in and listened – live. The North Carolina Stage Company takes us to the studios of the fictional WBFR Radio on Christmas Eve, 1946, and shows us exactly how radio magic was created – from the sound effects to dozens of character voices.

Classic Tale: Forget the glitz and the holiday schmaltz. This stripped-down, “live broadcast” adaptation of Frank Capra's classic remind us that a simple story, simply told, still packs a punch. Actors playing radio actors playing Bedford Falls characters marries a forgotten art to a well-loved, dog-eared story of redemption that doesn't seem to lose its appeal. Nostalgia times two – and it works.

Info: 8 p.m. $15-$25. 704-372-1000; blumenthalcenter .org.

A Tuna Christmas

Dec. 19-28; Carolina Actor's Studio Theatre, McGlohon Theater, Spirit Square, 345 N. College St.

Texas Xmas: Spend your holidays in Texas' third-smallest town – “where the Lions Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies.” Even Tuna, Texas, is not safe from seasonal traumas, including an ill-fated production of “A Christmas Carol,” a mysteriously sabotaged yard decorating contest and the arrival of aliens from outer space.

Bubba Claus: Arles Struvie and Thurston Wheelis man the airwaves of Tuna, Texas, radio station OKKK and take their listeners from local comedy to near disaster. Two actors introduce more than 30 zany characters and still manage split-second costume changes. This down-home tale of holiday mayhem has become a QC favorite.

Info: $22-$25. 704-347-5838; nccast.com.

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