Whether rereading “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” or watching yet another incarnation of “A Christmas Carol,” Christmas certainly has created a reputation for being a season of tradition. For folks looking to stray from the same old retreaded territory, Big Dawg Productions has the eggnog-coated remedy.
Coming this weekend to Cape Fear Playhouse, “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)” will rachet up the laughs. As the title suggests, the quick-paced show yucks it up with Yuletide affairs, as it meanders through a host of holiday classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“I like the manic nature of the play, and the way that nature reflects the manic qualities of the holiday season,” director David Kent says. “Seeing this play is a great way to find a break in that action and a wonderful way to remind yourself to laugh in the midst of the stress that December can bring us.”
Originally written by playwrights Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald and John K. Alvarez over a decade ago, this version of “Every Christmas Story” will come to life through actors Steve Vernon (Big Dawg Productions’ artistic director), Anthony Lawson and Randy Davis. “All three actors have done this show before (Randy and Steve about eight years ago and Randy and Anthony two years ago),” Kent comments. “So the real fun has been in watching them create new ways to approach the material.
Described as a “madcap romp,” the play runs the gamut of holiday mainstays. Vernon alone will be taking on the roles of the Grinch, Santa, Jim from “Gift of the Magi,” Hermie the Elf from “Rudolph,” Scrooge, George Bailey from “It’s Wonderful Life,” a game-show contestant, and a TV reporter, just to name a few.
The humor of “Every Christmas Story” remains broad, lampooning the season in its entirety. There is a distinct narrative thread throughout, but there are several diversions that encapsulate the frantic nature of the season and the many perspectives people have on it. The play boasts a number of accelerated versions of classic holiday specials and movies. Aside from Act II, each part of the play will last for only a few minutes.
Each glimpse or vignette offers its own unique style of comedy. Some parts offer a more subdued wit while others venture into slapstick territory.
“It points out that Christmas means different things to different people,” Vernon tells, “and that we all have our own traditions, some of which are universal and some of which are more personal…There is an element of shared themes in a lot of Christmas stories, but there is also a sense of independence when it comes to how these stories are told.”
The production’s playwrights set forth a skeleton for “Every Christmas Story,” but knowing that each theater attracts a different audience, the script still leaves room for the interpretation of whatever troupe is performing it. There’s a certain level of spontaneity to the production (it even includes a bit of audience participation).
“Often, I find myself just letting [the actors] run with the material and try to not get in their way!” Kent explains. “This isn’t a typical script, there are some roles that are very surface oriented, in that they require less characterization and more attention to delivery and timing. There also are a handful of characters that require a bit more introspection, but the whole idea of this show is fun.”
Fun certainly has been had on set. Kent says the cast members have sent each other spiraling into giggling fits throughout rehearsals. He hopes it signals a hearty does of opening-night chuckles.
Given the all-encompassing nature of the play, a multitude of challenges present themselves. Speedy costume changes, an aptly facilitating set, and a whole lot of props mark just a few of the unique aspects of “Every Christmas Story.”
“We don’t really see these as challenges in the sense of, ‘How are we going to do this?’ as much as, ‘This is going to be a lot of fun to tackle,’” Kent says.
The dedicated crew has designed a set that will include a lot of festive color and offers a great deal of fluidity. As well, costuming, which has been a group effort by all involved in the show, will feature garments that are anywhere from realistic to outlandishly silly.
“[We want] nothing more or less than a chance for audiences to laugh and have a great night at the theater,” Kent states.
Every Christmas Story Ever Told
Cape Fear Playhouse
613 Castle Street
Thurs.-Sun., Dec. 4-Dec.21, 8 p.m.; Sun. matinee: 3 p.m.