‘Mrs. Cratchit’ is the real ghost of Christmas

The Brooklyn Paper
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The Gallery Players’ production of “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge” is a whirlwind of behind-the-times references along with parodies of familiar figures from Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.”

If the directors of the “Scary Movie” franchise had decided to lampoon classic Christmas stories, the result would be something like Christopher Durang’s “Mrs. Bob Cratchit” — and I don’t mean that in a good way. For instance, one of the story’s central twists is that the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future have been consolidated into one sassy black woman — when, oh when, will this cliché be permanently laid to rest?

Cameos from characters in the Enron scandal, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Gift of the Magi” and even the TV show “Touched By An Angel” round out the pop culture grab-bag that might have felt fresh in 2002, when the production premiered (in Pittsburgh, no less). We’ve come to expect a lot more from the ususally sharp Durang (best known for the religious satire, “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You”).

Still, this semi-musical’s flaws were not the fault of the actors, who gamely executed all the slapstick humor — though Scrooge’s spasmodic “Bah humbug” consistently fell flat — and cling to the plot, which completely flies off the rails in the second half, thanks to some time traveling to 1970s New York, the random appearance of a second angel, and even a Mia Farrow reference (yes, it’s that lame).

The story’s central premise is two scrooges are better than one. During his tour of the past, present and future, the curmudgeon of Dickens’s classic slowly recognizes a kindred spirit in Mrs. Cratchit, who can’t stand her kids, her nauseatingly optimistic husband, and her sorry lot in life.

So, Mrs. Cratchit goes on a bender, promising her family that she’ll throw herself off of London Bridge. Meanwhile, the ghost of all three Christmases (Safiya Fredericks) flounders with her time travel skills, throwing Scrooge (Douglas Rees, reprising the original role) and Mrs. Cratchit (the ever-ebullient Joanna Parson, a game trouper if there ever was one) into one predicament after another.

As the second half wound to a close, the capable cast joined in a final number that explicitly tried to determine the point of the previous two hours. The actors’ conclusion: “If you’re poor, you can be happy. If you’re mean, you better get some money.” Fair enough, but it’s hard to imagine many in the audience leaving in a jolly mood after forking over $18 for this Christmas catastrophe.

“Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge” at the Gallery Players [199 14th St. between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 595-0547] will run Thursdays through Sundays through Dec. 20. Tickets, $18 (kids and seniors pay $14).

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Reader Feedback

GIC from Bay Ridge says:
Humbug to your review
Dec. 9, 2009, 9:50 am

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