So for those who weren’t at the reading of “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge” on Monday – and a surprising number of people were there – the script by Christopher Durang is hilarious, spinning “A Christmas Carol” into a post-modern froth of cynicism and theatrical self-reference while also managing to spoof a couple of other holiday favorites. To me the most hilarious moment of the night was when the play veered into “It’s a Wonderful Life” territory and who should emerge as George Bailey but Scott Wichmann. The immediacy of having an actor currently playing George Bailey in another production wander into the reading was just too perfect.
To make a more general point – obvious I’m sure to the theater vets out there – it’s these kinds of happy accidents that put live theater in a class by itself. Another example from “Mrs. Bob Cratchit”: there are two Cratchit children who are referred to at first as Child 1 and Child 2 (one of them eventually earns a name). One of these characters was originally supposed to be played by Eric Evans – a talented stage vet though only a teenager who would have been great in the role. As it happened, however, Eric wasn’t able to make the reading and the lovely Ali Thibodeau stepped in.
The great thing about this substitution – besides the fact that Ali is consistently a delight on stage – was that Child 2 is repeatedly mistaken for a girl and he often has to remind everyone that he’s a he. So as it turned out, there was an actress playing a boy being mistaken for a girl peevishly insisting that she was a he. I don’t know the specifics about how Ali was chosen as the replacement but, in my opinion, it was a small slice of casting genius that added another layer of absurdity to the already whacky goings-on. And another happy accident not foreseen at inception that helped make the reading a hoot.
I hope all you theater lovin’ folks out there are safely ensconced in a warm home somewhere enjoying the run-up to Christmas – or the ongoing rush of Hanuakkah – or the upcoming festivities of Kwanzaa – with a hot beverage and a good friend or family member around or two (instead of stuck at work like me). Happiest of holidays everyone!