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Is Cincy Shakes holiday play naughty or nice?

Posted at 7:00 AM, Dec 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-16 07:00:32-05

CINCINNATI -- Do you spend all your time at holiday parties stationed under the mistletoe with an expectant look on your face? If so, you might be a candidate for you-know-who’s naughty list.

No worries, you’ll have plenty of company there, including the cast of “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!).”

From Dec. 16-27, Cincinnati Shakespeare Co. is staging its 10th annual production of the ribald sendup of holiday classics, and no one is safe in the irreverent show – not Rudolph or Dr. Seuss or even poor old sad-sack Charlie Brown.

A decade ago, the theater company started staging the show at Arnold’s Bar and Grill just for kicks, with the iconic downtown eatery creating a special menu to accompany the fun. A few years ago, the production moved to Cincinnati Shakespeare’s Race Street facility after it secured a liquor license (add that to the “nice” list).

Jeremy Dubin, director of the show and artistic associate for the theater company, said the cast and crew have had a blast over the past 10 years. And they’ve pretty much seen it all, from bourbon-soaked corporate outings to rowdy audience feedback to the occasional pint-size attendees whose parents probably should’ve kept them home for hot cocoa (the show is recommended for older teens and adults).

It looks like Santa might need some assistance writing his “naughty or nice” list this year (keep reading to learn why), so we offer him a helping hand:

Naughty:

Drunk Santa enjoys a can of Foster's, or a few, during her rants in "Every Christmas Story Ever Told." Photo provided by Cincinnati Shakespeare Co.

  • One year, the actors were in a scene spelling out logical reasons that Santa Claus could not exist. From the audience came a startled – and young – voice that just said, “Whaaaatttt?!!?” Um, just kidding, kid.
  • Penmanship and list-making might not be the fat guy’s top priority. There's a character named Drunk Santa, after all.
  • It’s not nice to assume Santa can only be a man. Miranda McGee fills the boots and hoists the liquor bottle of Santa just fine in what will be her sixth year in the role.
  • An audience member stumbled to her feet one year during the show, wobbled her way up the aisle and out the door, where she promptly tossed her (presumably gingerbread) cookies in a bush outside. Eggnog is not for sissies, lady.

Nice:

  • “Every Christmas Story Ever Told” sells out pretty much every performance each year. There are only a couple hundred tickets left for 2015, but Cincinnati Shakespeare just announced the addition of another performance on Dec. 27. (Visit www.cincyshakes.com or call 513-381-2273, ext. 1. All tickets are $30.)
  • Just three actors – Billy Chace, Sara Clark and Justin McCombs (the latter two have been in the show all 10 years) – inhabit dozens of characters and skewer about 10 classic Christmas tales, from “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “The Grinch.” Their performances and costumes range from the smart-aleck to the absurd, including a ghost with his robe on backward who runs into pillars, and a prop-loving pirate with a pegleg, net, trident, hook, parrot and everything but the kitchen sink.
  • The play always includes some newsy references to poke those who haven’t kept up the Christmas spirit, Dubin said. A certain clown-haired, controversial presidential candidate is likely to make an appearance this year, he said, and who knows, maybe a bull-headed Kentucky county clerk who made headlines will be stopping by (Santa knows what you’ve been up to, Kim Davis).
  • And the nicest thing of all: Despite a robust debate, the actors ultimately come down on the side of Santa Claus’ existence. (Hey, why take chances on a lump of coal?)