'Every Christmas Story' has Santa flaws

Logicians say a troupe of monkeys, seated for an infinite amount of time at keyboards, would eventually type Shakespeare's plays.

If you seated would-be comics from the average open-mic night at those same keyboards, you'd eventually get "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)."

Sooner or later, one would convulse himself by writing a routine for a potty-mouthed Frosty the Snowman. Another would guffaw at the prospect of a game show based on aversion to fruitcake.

The illogic would flow something like this: "Hey, there's a dead guy in 'A Christmas Carol' named Marley, right? And there was a reggae singer named Bob Marley, right? So what if the dead guy came up to Scrooge wearing dreadlocks and talking in a Jamaican accent?

"And there was that big guy in the Uncola commercials, you know the one - tall black guy with a deep voice whose tagline was 'Never had it, never will.' He had a Jamaican accent, too, right? So this Bob Marley dude could say that!"

To which I can only reply, "Stop. You're killing me. And the art of comedy, too."

Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald and John K. Alvarez wrote this piece in two acts. The first is chaotic and elephantine at 100 minutes; the second, a conflation of "A Christmas Carol" and "It's a Wonderful Life," lasts just 20 minutes and proves that brevity is always a blessing, even if it's the soul of witlessness.

The Actor's Theatre of Charlotte cast of Chip Bradley, Joe Klosek and Maret Decker Seitz deserves only praise: They work up a literal sweat bursting onstage as multiple characters and are never less than appealing. Director Craig Spradley whips them into a frenzy that suits the material, though he's beating a dead reindeer.

But what could anyone do with a skit where "A Child's Christmas in Wales" is mistaken for "A Child's Christmas with Whales," prompting the appearance of an idiotic, piratical Captain Ahab?

The writers don't seem to realize that an oft-repeated joke is funny only if it builds to a climax. So they bring in the Norelco razor-riding Santa from Christmas commercials of 40 years ago and trot him out over and over again, as if the very mention of him were hilarious. (The cultural reference points here cover eight decades, though few come from the last 20 years.)

Worst of all, this show stops in act one to deliver a serious homily about the True Meaning of the Season, after mocking stories that really do communicate that meaning. Alas, "Every Christmas Story" doesn't have even the courage of its lack of convictions.