Blue Christmas 

What if old Ebenezer Scrooge, the miserly curmudgeon of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, fell in love with a much younger woman who's even nastier than he is? I'll allow readers a moment to shudder and heave as the question really is too revolting to consider seriously at any length, making it ideal fodder for Christopher Durang, the heretical playwright who's been turning sacred cows into steak tartar since 1979 when a Christmas pageant built into his breakthrough script Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You transformed memories of childhood trauma into a stocking full of coal-black comedy. Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge — making its regional debut at Circuit Playhouse this week — may not be as edgy and original as Sister Mary, but the hyperactive musical parody plays out like a live stage adaptation of Family Guy, and fans of broad parody (Touched by an Angel, anyone?) will find plenty of snickers.

Mrs. Bob Cratchit, played here by the always superb Alice Berry, is most often depicted as a loving, sweet-natured woman who embraces poverty as lovingly as she does her long-suffering husband Bob and Tiny Tim, her ailing but eternally sunny child. In Durang's hands, she's transformed into Joan Crawford, with 20-plus sickeningly sweet foundlings locked in a root cellar. And poor Scrooge (Jim Palmer of August: Osage County fame), being escorted through time and space by one confused ghost, slowly awakens to the siren song of "Mrs. Bob's" drunken rants. By show's end, the happily unhappy couple is transported to the last quarter of the 20th century to be greedy together in peace.

"Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge," Circuit Playhouse, November 25th-December 23rd. For more information, call 726-4656.

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