Review: HANAKKAH SCHMANUKKAH at Burbage Theatre Company

The Production runs through December 17th

By: Dec. 11, 2023
Review: HANAKKAH SCHMANUKKAH at Burbage Theatre Company
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If you're tired of the same old Christmas plays every year, you may just find what you are looking for in this original, world premiere engagement of "Hanukkah Schmanukkah" at the Burbage Theatre Company.

Loosely based on a 2005 book written by Esme Raji Codell and Leuyen Pham, "Hanukkah Schmanukkah" took the age-old Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" and gave it a Hanukkah twist, though by the end of the production, you may be thinking its more twisted than anything else.  

Aaron Blanck not only wrote and directs this world premiere but plays a number of characters in the play including Marley and the Rabbis(who are the Ghosts of the past and present). Four famous Jewish icon images are also used in the play as mobile mannequins including Barbara Streisand, Mel Brooks, Fran Drescher, and Natasha Lyonne

Unlike "A Christmas Carol", "Hannukkah Schmanukkah" takes place in Scroogemacher's waistcoat factory on the night before the last night of Hanukkah where Scroogemacher, played by Nancy Winokoor, may be her typical miserly self but also had a sharp tongue.  When Miss Woman, played by the witty and humorous Mary Paolino visits the factory to ask Scroogemacher for a donation, they get into a verbal fight with Miss Woman storming off.  Scroogemacher offers, "If she had called me the C-word, I would have donated." When Scroogemacher argues with "Niece-phew" Fred, played by the energetic Emma Feel, about the importance of Hanukkah, Scroogemacher says "I would say I'd see you in hell but that doesn't even exist for Jews".

After being visited by the first Ghost in former roommate Marley, Scroogemacher is visited by The Rabbi of Christmas Past and the Rabbi of Christmas Present.  When Scroogemacher defends Marley's notion that she does not care for people, Marley admits "locking people in the cellar to make waistcoats is not helping people". Under the visit from the Rabbi of Christmas Past, the play gets into a little history of the story of the first Hanukkah where Scroogemacher belches "This isn't one of those Christmas Carols where Scrooge learns from the first ghost, because I don't know what's going on."

For the Rabbi of Christmas Present, all decked out in bows, the ghost utters "That's why I wear bows because I am a Present".  When the Rabbi of Christmas Present takes Scroogemacher to the sad scenes of the present day, Scroogemacher says "Jewish holidays aren't about being happy, they're about survival."  Tin Tim, played by Liz Hallenbeck, is dying of ADHD though play narrator Charles Dickens, played by MJ Daly, pans to the audience that she "didn't even know that was possible".  Rounding out the cast is talented Allison "Sonny" Wong as Bob Cratchit, who mastered the Sally Field monologue in "Steel Magnolias" as the play wound down.  When Scroogemacher wakes up on the 8th and final day of Hanukkah, she realizes she hasn't missed it at all and admits her shortcomings in the promising "I have so much money to give away".

"Hanukkah Schmanukkah" is 60 minutes long with no intermissions.  The audience gave them a standing ovation though for my wife and I, who are not Jewish, felt we missed out on some of the inside jokes that everyone else seemed to love.  It's a non-sensical play that takes a beloved Christmas classic and gives it a new, sarcastic turn.  It doesn't take itself too seriously, something we could all learn from these days.