Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge
In a fight, would: Kick crotches, yank hair, and slash tires—between the crap acting and the high ticket price, Burien Little Theater has proven itself a shameless opponent.
At the Sunday matinee I attended, Christopher Durang's Christmas Carol parody drew crowds to the charmingly musky gymnasium that is Burien Little Theater. The house was packed, with a few boisterous audience members jumping onto the set furniture for quick "I'm on the TEE-vee!"–style mugging. The promising vibe was dissipated by the show, which lands like a tossed-off trifle. And the tickets were $15–$20. Only Dina Martina can get away with charging that much for rank amateurism. (Burien Little Theater) DAVID SCHMADER
The No Hole Holiday
In a fight, would: Put the fat man down the chimney. I mean the lump of coal in the stocking. I mean the daddy-pole in the mommy-hole.
Okay, Santa Claus, let me get this straight: Every single hole in the world is made in a factory by two "guh-nomes." Right. But then the "Grump Sisters" close up all the holes! And without holes—no chimneys, no stockings—nobody will be satisfied this Christmas!!! "Holes are very important, especially this time of year... so we must make arrangements with certain specialists for what we need." And you're absolutely certain that by "holes" you DON'T mean "buttholes," and by "specialists" you DON'T mean "sensual prostitute massage"? Suuuuure, Santa. Sure thing. (SecondStoryRepertory) LINDY WEST
A Christmas Carol
In a fight, would: Flatten its foes with old-timey fisticuffs.
Holy shit is this play charming—it's nice to see a cast working its damnedest to freshen up some much-covered territory. ACT's Carol is an ensemble piece, taking pressure off Mark Chamberlin's Scrooge. There's singing and dancing, a few genuine jump-in-your-seat moments with the ghost of Marley, and a hilariously drag-queeny Ghost of Christmas Present (Richard Ziman), with his robe slit down to there and a great sense of comic timing. Even better, Chamberlin doesn't make the transition from Unrepentant Skinflint to the World's Worst Case of Liberal Guilt unbelievably drastic: His charitable Scrooge still winces a bit when he reaches for his wallet. (ACT Theatre) PAUL CONSTANT
Back Home Again: A John Denver Holiday Concert
In a fight, would: Torture you with a fiddle solo, then offer you a cold glass of buttermilk.
The stage is set with bales of hay and dozens of poinsettias. The lighting is dappled. Men who used to know John Denver wear cowboy shirts and play acoustic guitars and reminisce about how Christmas was Denver's favorite holiday. Before launching into "Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas," one says: "There's a lot of singing along tonight, so you might as well get used to it. Or we're going to grab you by the collar and shove a microphone in your face." (Seattle Repertory Theatre) CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE
In a fight, would: Punch, preach.
The first act is an energetic "visualization of the birth of Christ as seen through the lenses of black people," according to the presiding Rev. Dr. Samuel B. McKinney. Act two is half singing, half nondenominational church service. It drags a bit for people not used to killing time in the house of God, but it's still a tap dance or two above most Sunday mornings. (Intiman Theatre) CIENNA MADRID
In a fight, would: Take a dive, then run off to a corner and count its money.
The program admits that "Nutcracker provides 52 percent of PNB's annual ticket revenue" and it's easy to see why people keep coming back: Maurice Sendak's sets are glorious. This year, though, most of the dancers are simply phoning it in. The opening party scene is an understated mess, and guest dancer Uko Gorter doesn't give Herr Drosselmeier the appropriate creepy-uncle vibe. The loudest applause at the performance I attended was for a Sendak-designed Christmas tree that twinkles and unfolds into an enormous, mouse's-eye-view monolith. The set entirely carries this tired old show. (Pacific Northwest Ballet) PAUL CONSTANT
The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of 'A Christmas Carol'
In a fight, would: Beat Tiny Tim to death with his own tiny crutch.
This play-within-a-play is about people who aren't good at putting on plays trying to put on a play. The people are British, the play is A Christmas Carol, and things like bad acting and audience participation and purposeful terribleness and falling down happen. Zany, manic failure is funny for about 15 minutes. By Farndale's two-hour mark I was ready to stick my head inside a Christmas goose and bake my own brains. (Taproot Theatre) LINDY WEST
O. Henry's 'The Gift of the Magi'
In a fight, would: Clobber everyone with dramatic irony.
The best thing about this musical adaptation of two O. Henry short stories is the musical director, R. J. Tancioco, who plays an upright piano enthusiastically and unobtrusively for 87 minutes straight. The rest of the performance suffers from bizarre casting, patchy singing, freeze-frame narration, old-time ethnic stereotyping, and an inflated storyline, which adds irritating angst to the original tale's wry sentimentality. (ArtsWest) ANNA MARIA HONG
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
In a fight, would: Cute its enemies to death.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is quick (less than an hour), cute (the cast is full of funny kids), and based on the children's book of the same name: A group of good-for-nothing siblings who smoke, fight, and swear get cast in the annual Christmas pageant at a local church and threaten to destroy it. In the end, they're the reason the pageant (and the play) are so great. (Seattle Public Theatre) MEGAN SELING
In a fight, would: Whimper in the corner.
There are two funny moments in John Bianchi's one-man performance of David Sedaris's Santaland Diaries: when Crumpet the elf signs, "Santa has a tumor in his head the size of an olive. Maybe it will go away tomorrow, but I don't think so," to a group of visiting deaf kids, and when he sings "Away in a Manger" à la Billie Holiday. But anyone who has listened to Sedaris's recital of Santaland on NPR will be disappointed with Bianchi's performance—in no small part because he can't seem to remember his lines. (Seattle Public Theatre) CIENNA MADRID
A(n Improvised) Christmas Carol
In a fight, would: Mime machine-gun fire, get mauled by make-believe enemies.
A recent performance featured a Scrooge who ran a gymnastics academy for young girls. "Is there anything more beautiful than watching an 11-year-old girl cry?" he shouted. "Watching a 10-year-old girl cry?" Cratchit asked helpfully. The best part is that the audience chooses the ending. If you're in a misanthropic mood, you can create an Ebenezer who doesn't learn one goddamned thing. (Market Theater) PAUL CONSTANT
Uncle Mike Ruins Christmas
In a fight, would: Sneak out the back and abuse himself in the alley.
I love jizz jokes and nastiness as much as the next girl, but this was too much—every joke is gross and none are clever. Elves jerked off by Santa (Uncle Mike) for the "special eggnog"? A West German (Uncle Mike) who lures East Germans into his home so he can kill them and fuck their corpses? No. (Historic University Theater) ARI SPOOL
He Sees You When You're Sleeping
In a fight, would: Show up wearing someone else's face.
Three actors, a few folding chairs, and no special effects—it's the best way for the squeamish to enjoy a horror movie. The trio, called Blood Squad, asks the audience for one made-up, season-specific horror title and invents everything else—six knives a-slicing, four hatchets a-chopping, three throats a-bleeding, two heads a-rolling, and one old guy at an old folks' home crucified on the floor by a serial killer dressed up as Santa Claus. (Odd Duck Studio) BRENDAN KILEY