BWW Reviews: A CHRISTMAS CAROL and HAM FOR THE HOLIDAYS Two Very Different Holiday Treats, One Theatre
Holiday theatrical traditions are alive and well at ACT but the two shows playing couldn't be more different from each other. First off with their 38th annual production, ACT presents the classic "A Christmas Carol" with all the polish and flash that you've come to expect. And then with their 13th installment, Peggy Platt and Lisa Koch (AKA Dos Fallopia) present their irreverent sketch comedy show "Ham for the Holidays: Close Encounters of the Pork Rind". I managed to see both in one night (it's possible but it's tight) and I went from sobbing to belly laughs that amounted to a lovely evening of holiday treats.
A Christmas Carol
I actually haven't seen an ACT production of this since I was a kid when my family used to go every year (back when ACT was in their old space on Roy). I remember being struck with the technical wizardry then ("Mom, how did they make the ghost walk through that wall?"), and the wizards are still in full force and now coupled with stunning direction from John Langs who thankfully remembered that at it's heart, this is a ghost story. And as such this production would fit well around Christmas or Halloween as at times the ghostly aspects of the story became fairly terrifying, especially Bradford Farwell's intensely spooky ghost of Marley.
But beyond the spooks (it's really only the first and the last that are all that scary) it's still Dickens' gorgeous tale and it's told with warmth, reverence and heart.
Plus the show boasts two Scrooges played on alternate nights by Kurt Beattie and Peter Crook. Now I saw Crook's performance and he completely nails the growth and arc of the character, staying laser focused in every moment. When he was crabby we felt his pain, and when he was giddy so were we. The rest of the ensemble is lovely as well and all true storytellers but I must mention some wonderful moments from Justin Alley as the beleaguered yet still joyful Bob Cratchit, Ian Bell as the hilariously ebullient Mr. Fezziwig, G. Valmont Thomas as the boisterous Ghost of Christmas Present, Matt Schwader as the lovable Nephew Fred and Robert Bergin and Hillary Clemens as the adorable yet tragic couple of young adult Scrooge and his fiancé Belle.
I remember the show being magical as a kid, and it's still so, but now I can also enjoy the stirring performances and stunning direction. There's a reason this tradition has been going on for 38 years. It's just that good.
Ham for the Holidays
In what couldn't be more different than its neighboring piece, but still deserves a place in Seattle holiday traditions, Platt and Koch always manage to keep the sketches fresh and topical in "Ham for the Holidays: Close Encounters of the Pork Rind". And along with their partners in insanity D.J. Gommels and Michael Oaks (and some hilariously off-putting interlude videos) the cast brings in the holiday funny.
The regulars are still there. Country duo The Spudds bring in a mish-mash of holiday favorites all from the twisted mind of Euomi Spudd. The Sequim Gay Men's Chorus is back and there's been a little bit of drama as usual (what DOES the fag say?). And add into the mix a band of Seattle's richest people, a demented game show and the worst company holiday party entertainment imagined and the evening is filled with hilarity.
I have to say I adore the twisted minds of these two comic geniuses so if you're looking for a slightly off holiday diversion, you've found it!
So whatever you may be in the mood for this holiday season, the sweet or the silly, the classic or the crazy, ACT has you covered.
"A Christmas Carol" performs through December 29th and "Ham for the Holidays performs through December 22nd both at ACT. For tickets or information contact the ACT box office at 206-292-7676 or visit them online at www.acttheatre.org.