Nothing says Christmas, theatrically speaking, like misanthropy. Unless its selfishness, snobbishness and one-upmanship. (Or womanship.) And maybe occasional peeps at a porn magazine.
Such is the world of The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomens Guild Dramatic Societys Production of A Christmas Carol, which opens the floodgate to more than a dozen fresh productions of holiday plays.
Davidson Community Players undertakes this comedy Thursday and hired a director who relishes strangeness: Matt Cosper, founder of Machine Theatre and a man more associated with the surreal and the avant-garde.
The script is so ridiculous that I immediately said, Yes, please! Its like Dada in some ways; you can be as silly as you want, said Cosper on the phone from New Orleans, where Machine was performing its Mums the Word at the New Orleans Fringe Festival. Sound is a sixth character: The microphones dont work, and theres a funny running gag about the interruptions that keep happening.
What I like about the piece is that its irreverent. After the eighth time youve seen The Littlest Angel, you might be relieved to laugh at this craziness. The Farndale women take themselves seriously, and the play pokes fun at all their preciousness.
David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr. have a cottage industry going with these Farndale Avenue plays: Theyve written 10 such spoofs of amateur theater.
This one features an arthritic actress playing Bob Cratchit, a vainglorious star grumbling her way along as Scrooge, a blithe nitwit who pirouettes through supporting parts, a naïve assistant stage manager and a stage manager (the lone male) who plays Mrs. Cratchit, when he can put down his X-rated magazine. (McGillivray knows something about porn: For 25 years, he wrote naughty screenplays with titles such as Unzipper De Do Dah.)
All the cross-dressing suggests the heyday of Eric Idle and John Cleese, and Cosper says Monty Python is heavy in the DNA of this piece. Its an English play and I wonder if the real Farndale a valley in North Yorkshire is comic shorthand for British audiences, the way Gastonia is for North Carolina.
Cosper next plans to tackle a local staging of Machines Mums the Word. But someday hed like to do a traditional BBC-type staging of A Christmas Carol. I love that period, and its a moving story. I hope Ill get that opportunity but Farndale isnt it.
Other holiday theater
Activate Community Through Theater
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Dec. 1-22 in Mooresville, Concord and Charlotte. The audience participates as Rudolph helps elves make toys, joins in reindeer games and generally saves the day for Santa.
Actors Theatre of Charlotte
650 E. Stonewall St. 704-342-2251, actorstheatrecharlotte.org.
Winter Wonderettes, Dec. 19-Jan. 5 (previews Dec. 14-15). In a follow-up to The Marvelous Wonderettes, a female quartet rocks the halls of Harpers Hardware with a holiday party featuring carols, pop tunes and the odd Hawaiian hit.
Blumenthal Performing Arts
The Ultimate Christmas Show (Abridged), by The Reduced Shakespeare Company, Friday through Sunday. Three Wise Guys celebrate and send up traditions, musical and otherwise. In Booth Playhouse, 130 N. Tryon St.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze, Dec. 18-22. Described as gingerbread men flipping mid-air, toy soldiers marching on thin wires, snowmen daringly balancing, icemen powerfully sculpting, penguins spinning, puppets dancing and reindeer soaring high. In Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St.
Carolina Actors Studio Theatre
2424 N. Davidson St., Suite 113. 704-455-8542, nccast.com.
Death Tax, Nov. 30-Dec. 16. In Lucas Heaths comic thriller, wealthy retiree Maxine tries to celebrate one more Christmas season at her Florida retirement home. But shes convinced her nurse and daughter are trying to kill her before a federal death tax takes effect New Years Day and saps the estate.
Childrens Theatre of Charlotte
ImaginOn, 300 E. Seventh St. 704-973-2828, ctcharlotte.org.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Nov. 30-Dec. 23. The nasty, inventive Herdman kids get a taste of the sympathetic spirit after being cast in a church pageant.
The Littlest Angel, Dec. 14-30. The title character has trouble adjusting to heavens rules, until the Understanding Angel brings him a wooden box full of childhood treasures from his life on Earth.
100 McDowell St. East, Matthews. 704-846-8343, www.matthewsplayhouse.com.
White Christmas, Nov. 30-Dec. 16. Two World War II veterans help out a former commander by singing Irving Berlins music with two ladies at a mountain lodge.
A Modern Christmas Carol, Dec. 6-9. A 21st-century updating of Dickens novellete, with songs added.
3327 S.C. 51, Fort Mill, S.C. 803-802-2300, narroway.net.
The Real Christmas Story and A Stranger for Christmas, in repertory through Dec. 20. The former is a combination Christmas pageant and a telling of the story of Jesus birth; the latter adapts the book by Carol Lynn Pearson about a family that takes in an old lady for the holidays.
Old Courthouse Theatre
The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Nov. 29-Dec. 16. Its Christmas 1939 in Atlanta. Gone with the Wind is having its world premiere, Hitler is invading Poland, and Atlantas assimilated German Jews are much more concerned with who is going to Ballyhoo, the social event of the season!
McGlohon Theatre, Spirit Square, 345 N. College St., 704-372-1000, carolinatix.org.
Black Nativity, Nov. 30-Dec. 2. Langston Hughes based his song-filled play on the Gospel of Luke and its account of the birth of Christ. An all-youth cast going by the collective name Tomorrows R.O.A.D. (Roots of the African Diaspora) does the show.
Starving Artist Productions
Duke Energy Theatre, Spirit Square, 345 N. College St., 704-372-1000, carolinatix.org.
The Birth, Dec. 13-23. The company has expanded its one-act, semi-musical retelling of the birth of Christ, using Frederick Buechners words. The last show offers a reception and a concert by local musician Sarah DeShields.
A Christmas Carol, Dec. 7-16: John Jakes adapted Charles Dickens novel about the tightfisted British miser who learns the meaning of the holiday season.