The Second City
Kirk Douglas Theatre
Director: Marc Warzecha
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Christmastime is here again and, as expected, the stereotypical songs, movies and plays are dusted off and returned to the public view. Resurrected among these Christmas must-haves is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” but this time with a comedic twist.

Written by Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort, and performed by the theater group The Second City at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, “A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!” is a humorous parody of the Christmas classic with additional skits and improv tinseled with Christmas spirit.

More than anything, the play is a conglomeration of modern skits and seemingly contrived improv sketches that overwhelm a fairly talented parody of Dickens’ play. Although a little disorganized and silly, “Twist Your Dickens!” still manages to be witty and entertaining.

The parodied scenes of “A Christmas Carol” are very satisfying for both Dickens’ die-hard fans and those who only know the famous line “Bah, humbug!”

Actor Ron West brings not only an appropriately grumpy and bitter Ebenezer Scrooge to the stage, but also a Scrooge who is wildly funny and lovable despite his sardonic humor. Scrooge is first introduced while counting his gain from a Salvation Army bucket he placed outside. He gloats, “It was like taking candy from a baby … who is stupid!”

Ten minutes in, Frank Caeti, an audience plant, interrupts a scene to argue with Scrooge about the era-inaccuracy of the parody because Bob Cratchit uses a Bluetooth, and three businessmen wear modern suits over their 18th century knickers while drinking Starbucks coffee. Caeti is immediately humiliated by Scrooge’s perfectly cruel insults.

Tiny Tim, performed by Jean Villepique, holds a slumber party for his crippled and malnourished friends. Yet they play physically intensive games like tag, easily inducing a riot of laughter.

The Ghost of Christmas Future, a charades master, redeems many of the slower improv scenes with the use of toys, including foam fingers and lightsabers, to communicate his message.

The Ghost of Jacob Marley, Dan Castellaneta, introduces the highlight of the play: slips of paper written previously by the audience describing the worst thing they have ever done to a person.

While cursing Scrooge for his cruelty, Marley reads aloud some of the horrible things he and members of the audience have apparently done, like “cheating on his boyfriend while he had pink eye” and “forcing his mother to walk home when she had crutches.” Whenever a slip of paper appears on stage, the audience can anticipate a clever improvisation.

Although rather creative and chock-full of holiday spirit, the comedic sketches and improv are not up to par with the parody.

Oliver Twist and other famous Dickens orphan characters riot as a union against their poor treatment. When Harry Potter steps on stage in support, his only contribution to the scene is an anticlimactic one-lined letdown.

The parody skit of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is boring and very disappointing.

The overly lengthy exaggeration of Linus’ inspiring Christian speech destroys the potential for the rest of the spoof. It was claimed that the skit is a never-before-shown scene from the film. It should have remained that way.

A rather juvenile and silly idea about an infestation of elves in a domestic home who leave little present droppings raised several unamused eyebrows. The scene ends with the couple deciding to resort to the cheapest extermination method of gassing the creatures out.

Although some of the skits are rather bland, “A Christmas Carol: Twist your Dickens!” redeems itself with its parody of “A Christmas Carol” and guarantees a night of holiday laughs to start off the Christmas season.

““ Brigit Harvey

Email Harvey at bharvey@media.ucla.edu.