Holiday Hi-Jinks

Contemporary Theatre Company offers a satirical take on the Christmas spirit


Some folks put you in the holiday spirit. Others make you want to drink a holiday spirit or two. If the likes of George Bailey, the Grinch and any remotely red-nosed reindeer leave you in need of a stiff drink, we’ve got just the show for you.

Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge is a twist on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge gets top billing in the traditional tale, but playwright Christopher Durang’s parody instead casts a spotlight on the long-suffering lady of the Cratchit household. With winter winds, money woes and a house full of kids bearing down on her, Mrs. Cratchit has a bone to pick with this holiday season. And it’s a hoot to watch her pick it.

The Contemporary Theatre Company of South Kingstown (CTC) mounts the musical comedy this month. After several successful runs of The Gift of the Magi, artistic director Christopher Simpson began looking for a new December show. He was delighted to discover that Durang, the man behind absurdist satires like Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them, had crafted a holiday play. “It immediately has that contemporary charm and wit that he is known for,” says Simp- son. And it looked like it would be a lot of fun to work on, a quality important to Simpson in selecting shows.

Durang’s humor tends towards the devilishly dark, but he employs a more PG-13, family-friendly tone in Mrs. Bob Cratchit. Commissioned by Pittsburgh’s City Theatre, this good-natured send-up of Christmas classics premiered in 2002. The play begins in Dickensian time but moves through time and space, peopled by familiar characters from A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life and more.

In the CTC’s production, Amy Lee Connell stars as Mrs. Cratchit, with featured players including Kevin Killavey as her husband, Terry Simpson as Scrooge and Amelia Giles as the Ghost. It’s also the CTC’s first show with children in the ensemble – six young South Kingstown actors ranging in age from seven to twelve years old. Among them are Liam Donnelly as Tiny Tim and Elisabeth Thompson as Zuzu Bailey. “The kids bring a wonderful energy,” Simpson reports, adding that directing them is a novel task. “You can’t take anything for granted in terminology, any cultural references or past experiences. It makes you look at everything fresh.”

The play will be performed at the Towers of Narragansett, where sweeping ocean views always lend an impressive backdrop. Simpson plans to take advantage of the unique location with some new staging ideas. A small orchestra led by Stephen Grueb will provide lively musical accompaniment. And audiences can expect hot cocoa, cookies and caroling to put them in a festive mood. For an added bonus (of which Scrooge would ever approve), Thursdays offer pay-what-you-can admission.

“It’s a tremendously fun and funny show where you do leave with the Christmas spirit,” Simpson says. If it’s not enough to carry you through the season with a renewed sense of holly jolliness, you can always follow Mrs. Cratchit’s lead. Bottoms up!

Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge plays December 15-17 and 21-23 at 7pm and December 18 at 2pm.