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Theater Reviews: La Posada Magica, Women Behind Bars, Peep This 

Also, Palestine, New Mexico, A Very Merry Happy Kosher Christmas and more

Wednesday, Dec 16 2009
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GO  BOB’S HOLIDAY OFFICE PARTY It’s the holiday season, and, if you can’t muster the energy for the whole “goodwill to all men” thing, you can at least drink yourself into a stupor in front of your co-workers and friends, and wind up committing deeds that would shame the shameless. That’s the reprehensible, albeit charming message of Joe Keyes’ and Rob Elk’s flamboyantly tasteless comedy — a noel celebration that leaves the stage littered with slopped whiskey and beer, crushed cheese balls, smashed furniture and perhaps a drop or two of bodily fluids. In small-town Neuterberg, Iowa, beloved local insurance agent Bob Finhead (Elk) puts on the hog for his friends and customers as they all arrive for his annual Christmas party. And what a crew they are: recovering alkie cop Joe (Keyes), whose vow of temperance lasts about 30 seconds; the bigoted, trashy Johnson sisters (Linda Miller, Melissa Denton, resplendent in fishnet stockings and the world’s tackiest Christmas sweaters); drunken town slut Brandy (Johanna McKay, whose shambling, nymphomaniacal turn has to be seen to be believed) stops by, as does the mayor’s wife (Jeanette Schwaba-Vigne), who is having an affair with Bob that’s so secret everyone in town knows about it except for the mayor himself. Conflict arises when former local geek–turned-tycoon Elwin (David Anthony Higgens) shows up to make Bob a deal that could change his life — though at a terrible cost. Director Matt Roth helms this year’s production, bringing an assured eye for gags and a flair for comic timing. Many of the show’s funniest drunken antics appear to be improvised, though it’s impossible to imagine that the show varies too much from night to night. Occasionally, the chaotic atmosphere tends to get the better of some of the staging: Characters talk over each other or merely roar, making it hard to keep track of who’s doing what awful boozy thing to whom. However, the show puts its humor where its mouth is — with gags as frantic and as funny as they are jaw-dropping. Particularly hilarious turns are offered by Keyes’ dorky cop, by McKay’s slatternly boozer, and by Schwaba-Vigne’s comically unbalanced wife of the mayor. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through December 20. plays411.com/bobs. (Paul Birchall)

GO  A CHRISTMAS CAROL It takes a village to tell Charles Dickens’ morality play, or at least, that’s the impression left by director Ernest A. Figueroa. Twenty-five actors crowd his intimate stage, and Figueroa divvies up Dickens’ lines between them. The great ghost story here rings perilously like a recitation. Allowing Bob Cratchit (Doug Haverty) to mouth off about Scrooge’s (Chris Winfield) inner life makes the humble accountant seem too big for his threadbare britches. (Liz Nankin’s and Maro K. Parian’s costumes are fantastic.) Though Richard Helleson and David De Berry’s musical numbers could use more practice, this production has the smart stroke of turning the three spirits into Bunraku puppets; the third and last, the Ghost of Christmas Future, is frightening, as is Marley lurch into Scrooge’s chamber with two puppeteers brandishing his long chains on a stick. Jim Carrey’s 3-D movie of Carol is this season’s best channeler of Dickens’ wit, invention and spark. But if you like your tradition live, this production is fine enough. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; through December 20, thegrouprep.com. (818) 700-4878. (Amy Nicholson)

GO  FROSTY THE SNOW MANILOW Take one measure of maudlin, ’70s TV holiday kitsch; add a dozen, inappropriate pop melodies from the same decade’s premier adult-contemporary hit maker; fold in generous helpings of sardonically retooled lyrics and camped-up choreography; season to taste with puerile puns, off-color double entendres and relentlessly self-mocking ad libs; and half-bake for an hour with an ensemble of crack clowning parodists. This, in a roasted chestnut shell, is the winning recipe for the Troubadour Theater Company’s annual, off-kilter Christmas confections. To their die-hard fans, it is immaterial that this year’s musically mashed-up targets are the treacly 1969 cartoon special, Frosty the Snowman, or the sentimental mewling of the Barry Manilow songbook. With top chef/director Matt Walker again at the controls of the comedy Cuisinart, all that matters is that the resulting purée is flavored with his peerless timing and mischievously wry sensibility. Paul C. Vogt fills designer Sharon McGunigle’s appropriately ludicrous Frosty costume as the magically animated snowman who hates kids but is nonetheless resigned to being saved from melting by the cloyingly effusive schoolgirl, Karen (Christine Lakin). Walker is the evil magician, Hinkle, who throws plot complications and one-liners in their path. Standouts include Beth Kennedy, who literally stops the show to perform insult standup as the Winter Warlock (think Juliette Lewis on stilts); Rick Batalla as the Station Master with Vegas ambitions; Jack McGee as the cantankerous narrator and a jive-talking Santa; and the always remarkable musical director, Eric Heinly, and his Troubadour band. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m. (No perfs Dec. 24, 25, 31, or Jan. 1); through January 17. (818) 955-8101. A Troubadour Theater Company prduction. (Bill Raden)

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