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Find holiday joy and laughter on stage

Shows include a wacky type of 'Christmas Carol' and other excellent adventures

Nothing says “Christmas,” theatrically speaking, like misanthropy. Unless it’s 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 Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s 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!’ It’s 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 “Mum’s the Word” at the New Orleans Fringe Festival. “Sound is a sixth character: The microphones don’t work, and there’s a funny running gag about the interruptions that keep happening.

“What I like about the piece is that it’s irreverent. After the eighth time you’ve 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: They’ve 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. It’s 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 Machine’s “Mum’s the Word.” But someday he’d like to do “a traditional BBC-type staging of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ I love that period, and it’s a moving story. I hope I’ll get that opportunity – but ‘Farndale’ isn’t it.”

Other holiday theater

Activate Community Through Theater

704-707-6757, www.activatecommunitythroughtheatre.com.

“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.

Actor’s 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 Harper’s Hardware with a holiday party featuring carols, pop tunes and the odd Hawaiian hit.

Blumenthal Performing Arts

704-372-1000, carolinatix.org; blumenthalcenter.org.

“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 Heath’s comic thriller, wealthy retiree Maxine tries to celebrate one more Christmas season at her Florida retirement home. But she’s convinced her nurse and daughter are trying to kill her before a federal “death tax” takes effect New Year’s Day and saps the estate.

Children’s 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 heaven’s rules, until the Understanding Angel brings him a wooden box full of childhood treasures from his life on Earth.

Matthews Playhouse

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 Berlin’s 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.

Narroway Productions

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

49 Spring St. NW, Concord, 704-788-2405, oldcourthousetheatre.org.

“The Last Night of Ballyhoo,” Nov. 29-Dec. 16. It’s Christmas 1939 in Atlanta. “Gone with the Wind” is having its world premiere, Hitler is invading Poland, and Atlanta’s assimilated German Jews are much more concerned with who is going to Ballyhoo, the social event of the season!

Porch Productions

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 Tomorrow’s 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 Buechner’s words. The last show offers a reception and a concert by local musician Sarah DeShields.

Theatre Charlotte

501 Queens Road. 704-376-3777; theatrecharlotte.org; carolinatix.org.

“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.

Toppman: 704-358-5232
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