When it comes to comedy revues, none does it better than Second City. Just a week after seeing their latest Revue on Wells Street, here I am at The Goodman Theatre, where they are presenting a hilarious two act playlet entitled “Twist Your Dickens,or Scrooge You!” in the Owen Theatre. Now imagine this if you will, “A Christmas Carol” is just down the foyer in The Albert with a marvelous Larry Yando bringing Ebenezer Scrooge to life. What an experience. How can Second City even come close to bringing this character to their stage? Well they were able to bring Francis Guinan (a Chicago favorite, known to Steppenwolf audiences for his great dramatic performances) to the Owen and in this amazingly funny take on the Dickens’ classic, we get surprise after surprise as we watch this serious actor become as strong as the second City crazies in making this a special evening of theater.
Written by Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort and directed by Matt Hovde, this is a story that begins just as if it were the actual tale, but we get a surprise visit from an alleged audience member who begins to yell that the actors are on a set that is not proper and there are props that are from a time other than the story. This is the very funny Frank Caeti who will , from time to time be that audience member as well as many of the characters in the story, and sub stories.
While the straight actor Guinan truly plays a solid Scrooge to begin the show, as the other actors get involved we see a lighter side to him and watch his ability to ad-lib as will as improv. During the telling of the story, we find ourselves pulled out of the actual story on several occassions to witness a protest on Dickens, started by Oliver Twist ( another Dickens’ character) and other orphans, (“Annie”, Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” and even Batman). We also have audience participation, as in a spot, the actors will yell out for a word, or a place and then incorporate that into the script that they are writing, as we view.By the way, when you enter the theater, you will be asked to write down a moment in your past that is either sinful or funny and they do use these events during the performance. They were inane, insane and very funny bits.
There is also a guest celeb in the show. I understand that they will alternate and change so everyone might see a different one. Opening night it was the famous chef Rick Bayless (others scheduled are JC Brooks, Adrienne C. Moore, Che Smith and TJ and Dave). You will also see characters from “It’s A Wonderful Life” pop in from time to time and of course a room full of gifts from “Christmas Presents Past” and in the real Ghost scenes, when the past is brought up, due to the audiences participation, we went back in time three times where the same scene took on a different light- hysterical.
The actors/comics that share the stage with Guinan, in addition to Caeti are as follows: Peter Gwinn( the show’s writer),Tim Stoltenberg, the adorable Robyn Scott, Beth Melewski, who truly has the comic touch and does an improv solo that will have you holding your sides, and Sayjal Joshi who takes Tiny Tim to a whole new level. Sometimes they are really into the story, other times, they are somewhere else, but no matter where they are, the audience is n heaven, filled with laughter and good cheer. They even bring us the end (one that was never seen) of “It’s A Charlie Brown Christmas”. No matter what your day was like, within minutes of this performance starting, you will have forgotten it all and just have a great time!
I must say that the set (Tom Buderwitz) and lighting (Gina Patterson) along with costumes (Rachel Lambert) and sound (Casi Pacilio) add a more theatrical feeling than a typical Second City production where it is mostly a few chairs on a blank stage. This is THEATRE, One does expect that at The Goodman, it would be. This production will grace the stage through January 3rd ( with a special New Year’s Eve party) with performances as follows:
Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. ( but not on 12/30)
Wednesdays, 12/17 7:30 p.m. 12/31 at 6 and 10 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m. 12/18 ONLY
Fridays p.m. 12/26 added 4 p.m.
Saturdays 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 and 7 p.m.
Running time is 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission
Tickets range from $20 and can be purchased at the Goodman box office, by calling the box office at 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org. The Goodman is located at 170 N. Dearborn (between Randolph and lake)
FYI: For all of you who adore watching Francis Guinan on stage, he will be leaving the show on Christmas and in his stead will be Brian Boland, who I am sure will bring his own past and experience to the show.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Twist Your Dickens, or Scrooge You!”