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Stage review: Dickens mash-up over-twists

November 23, 2012|By Lynne Heffley
  • Lauren McCormack as Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Twist," at the Victory Theatre Center in Burbank.
Lauren McCormack as Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas… (Courtesy photo )

Theatergoers who prefer “A Christmas Carol” straight up, with language and redemptive message intact, won't find much holiday cheer in “A Christmas Twist,” SeaGlass Theatre's satiric treatment of the Dickens classic at the Victory Theatre Center in Burbank.

Regrettably, even those who relish their Scrooge, Cratchits and ghostly Spirits played for laughs won't find this mash-up of Dickens' “A Christmas Carol” and “Oliver Twist” nearly as jolly as it could have been.

Taking a sketchy and broad-stroke approach to both classics, writers Doug Armstrong, Keith Cooper and Maureen Morley have turned Oliver Twist into hapless workhouse orphan Tiny Twist, who is adopted by Bob Cratchit after trying to pick his pocket. Mr. Bumble, the pompous workhouse owner stunned by Oliver's request for more gruel, is both thieving Fagin's co-conspirator and Scrooge's nephew, with a vested interest in keeping Tiny Twist's origins a mystery.

It's a clever idea, but one that is never fully realized in the execution, undermined by little sense of time and place, heavy-handed silliness and clunky one-liners: Bob Cratchit to Scrooge: “My fire has gone out.” Scrooge: “Oh, you mean it's not exciting for you anymore?” Charity-collecting carolers to Scrooge: “What can I put you down for?” Scrooge: “My bad attitude?” The Ghost of Marley to Scrooge: “Ask me who I was.” Scrooge: “Who was you?” The Ghost of Christmas Present, played as a reeling drunk: “Open up, Scrooge, I need to use your chamber pot.”

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The cleverest bit of the night may have been the obligatory pre-show warning to turn off all noise-making electronic devices, lest offending audience members meet the ghosts of “Courtesy Past,” “Irritation Present” and “Embarrassment Yet to Come.”

Falcon Theatre's resident Troubadour Theatre Company, a master of literary and pop-culture mash-ups, can drop a few groaners during its riotous shows, too. One difference is that the Troubadours' reactions to lukewarm audience responses are built into the company's productions and are generally well timed enough to advance the comedy and stoke energy.

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