Review: MRS. BOB CRATCHIT'S WILD CHRISTMAS BINGE at Contemporary Theater Company

Production runs until December 23rd

By: Dec. 04, 2023
Review: MRS. BOB CRATCHIT'S WILD CHRISTMAS BINGE at Contemporary Theater Company
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While Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol is the go-to Christmas play each and every year, there's something fresh about a new Christmas play that has a little bit of the familiar with mostly all new takes and skits.  Welcome to Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge that eill keep you laughing to the very last!

The show, written by Christopher Durang, began when Durang was commissioned by the Pittsburgh City Theatre Artistic Director Tracy Brigden to write a Christmas comedy and the play first premiered back in November 7, 2002. But I had never heard of it and I don't think the show saw much play in our area over the last twenty years which makes it extra special.

The setting of the play is similar to A Christmas Carol, at least initially, with a pair of fellows visiting Ebenezer Scrooge, played masterfully by Ryan Sekac and Bob Cratchit, played to perfection by Neil Motta, where the two visitors are asking for Scrooge to donate money for the poor.  But the play takes a wacky turn soon after when Scrooge is pitched to buy energy credits from one of the gentlemen named Kenneth Lay(Enron people!!) and Scrooge pledges to buy them using Cratchit's meager salary, which of course Cratchit agrees to.  "Slap yourself in the face," Scrooge asks Cratchit, who responds "I'd rather not sir."  Scrooge pushes back with "Don't say no to me, Cracthit" and that's where the play begins to unhinge into a comedic masterpiece.

The play revolves around Mrs. Bob Cracthit, played by the extraordinary Chelsea Mitchell, whose eye-rolling, sarcastic mannerisms and tone made my family laugh from the very beginning.  Mrs. Cratchit is overworked, with her husband continuing to take new kids in that they cannot afford to feed.  She's had enough and she wants a break and her conversations with her children are never short of being side-splittingly hilarious.  Genevieve Armitage plays a loving yet whiny Tiny Tim, who utters that he and has father had a wonderful walk through the city and that he "only fell down 102 times, mother" to which Mrs. Cratchit pans "Why don't you use your crutch you stupid child?"

The play is filled with hysterical lines like this.  When Bob brings home another child to care for to add to the dozens they already have including a bunch on their cellar, Mrs. Cratchit said "what do you want me to do with it, cook it in place of the goose we can't afford?"

To add to the humor of the play, Christine Green plays a wonderful bumbling Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future where she is constantly making mistakes and sending Scrooge to the wrong places, one where she mistakenly sends Scrooge to the Cratchit's home instead of Fezziwig's business when reflecting on Scrooge's past.  Other times she mistakenly sends Scrooge to the set of Oliver Twist or to Bailey Falls where George Bailey has just discovered his daughters Zu Zu's petals.  "You need to go back to Ghost School," Scrooge grimaces.  Other great actors in the play include Susie Chakmakian as Little NellBridget Clark, Sebastian Shoup, Father Kelley who took on multiple rolls to perfection.

The play features a number of songs including "We Love Christmas", "Eat, Drink and Be Jolly" and the most hysterical "Silent Night" you will ever hear. The children in the play, split into two teams to each tackle a performance, were a great compliment to the wonderful adult actors including, for this performance, Ronan Hanlon as a Young Marley, Tusz Ruedakurto as a Young Scrooge.

For my family, this show was a wonderfully original production where my teen daughter claimed there were times "she couldn't breathe because she was laughing so hard" and during intermission the teens discussed which line they thought was the funniest (these are great signs for anyone who has a teen).

Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge may be one of the top three funniest productions I have ever seen.  Take this one:  When Mrs. Cratchit was beginning to get unhinged and was getting tired of hearing of Tiny Tim's complaints, she turned to her husband, "Why does he talk this way?  Is this a British child?" and Bob pans "Yes, we're all British" and Mrs. Cratchit counters "I Think I'm from Cranston." and there dozens more lines like that.

This is a special play for the entire family, featuring top-shelf comedic timing and acting and a great story I promise you have never heard before.  Lose yourself in the humor of the season and make sure you bring your family and friends as well because no one should miss this!


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