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Philadelphia by Tim Dunleavy

The Very Merry Xmas Carol Holiday Adventure Show

The Very Merry Xmas Carol
Bradley K. Wrenn, Justin Jain and Dave Johnson
So, who exactly are The Berserker Residents? Let's just say that these guys are dangerous. They are a threat to the Christmas traditions that millions hold dear. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

In their inventive new show, The Very Merry Xmas Carol Holiday Adventure Show, this locally based troupe puts an irreverent twist on some of the most beloved stories of the Christmas canon. They do it with a lot of affection for the original stories, and with a sleighful of wit and energy.

The show starts out as a parody of A Christmas Carol told in verse, but when the rhyming stops, Scrooge's story takes an unexpected twist. Old Ebenezer (Bradley K. Wrenn) finds himself roaming the tundra with an anxious reindeer named Rudolf (Justin Jain) and a snowy soldier of fortune (Dave Johnson) wearing a black flak jacket and charcoal buttons ("The name's Snowman ... Frosty the Snowman"). The three team up to defeat "The Xmas," a mysterious villain out to destroy the spirit of Christmas. But in order to do so, they have to get past a menacing little drummer boy, also played by Johnson ("I'm a boy, and I have a drum. You figure it out"). There are also occasional detours from the plot, like the story of a smarmy, glitzy character named Christmas Man who gives a destitute family the gift of ... auto insurance?

The Very Merry Xmas Carol is like a live action version of a Bullwinkle or Bugs Bunny cartoon: it's a show that will appeal to several age groups at once. Kids will love the goofy characters and the physical humor, and grownups will love the many jokes that go over the kids' heads. The show is filled with puppets, projections, some audience participation, and a hilarious mime routine about a boy unwrapping his presents. The invention lags a bit during the second hour, but it all comes together for a big payoff at the end.

Wrenn, Jain and Johnson are three members of the Berserkers (they also co-wrote the show with a fourth member, Tim Sawicki). They each somehow manage to give a deadpan, committed performance in spite of their outlandish roles. And Brian McCann is excellent as an avuncular narrator who insinuates himself into the story as he tells it. Director Alex Torra's production never gets sloppy or self-indulgent, and the production values make the best of an obviously limited budget.

The Berserkers' show is full of high spirits, and it's marked by satire that's intelligent without being overdone. In its own small way, it makes the season merry and bright.

The Very Merry Xmas Carol Holiday Adventure Show runs through December 31, 2010, and is presented by Theatre Horizon at the Centre Theater, 208 DeKalb Street, Norristown, Pa. Ticket prices range from $21 to $27 and may be purchased by calling the box office at 610-283-2230, or online at www.theatrehorizon.org.

The Very Merry Xmas Carol Holiday Adventure Show
Written by The Berserker Residents (Justin Jain, Dave Johnson, Bradley K. Wrenn, Tim Sawicki)
Directed by Alex Torra
Scenic Design: Lisi Stoessel
Lighting Design: Maria Shaplin
Composer/Sound Design: Daniel Perelstein
Costume Design: Millie Hiibel
Props Design: Keighty McLallen

Cast:
Rudolf ... Justin Jain
Frosty ... Dave Johnson
Narrator ... Brian McCann
Scrooge ... Bradley K. Wrenn


-- Tim Dunleavy



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