BWW Review: CHRISTMAS ON THE ROCKS brings grown up laughs to Warehouse Theatre

BWW Review: CHRISTMAS ON THE ROCKS brings grown up laughs to Warehouse Theatre

"Seriously, Christmas is not what it used to be."

Late night, Christmas Eve, an aging, empty bar tended by an aging, amiable bartender. He brings in a solitary decoration - a leg lamp, like the one that was the "major award" won by Ralphie's dad in A Christmas Story. He lights it up and stands behind the bar, waiting to see if he gets any customers.

And in walks Ralphie. Not 9 year old Ralphie from the movie. No, this is Ralph, now grown up and feeling a bit of a failure. He's unemployed, his wife has left him, and he's still dealing with the aftermath of that bunny suit he got for Christmas so many years ago. So he unloads his burdens on the friendly barkeep, as one does. And maybe, just maybe, when he's done telling his story, he'll feel just a little bit better about himself before he leaves the bar.

That's the set up for Christmas on the Rocks, a series of vignettes, each written by a different playwright, that give us grown up versions of memorable Christmas characters, including Ralphie, Charlie Brown, and Tiny Tim. These folks are now bitter and troubled, their famous Christmas adventures having negatively shaped their lives. As you have no doubt gathered, these are very much adult-themed vignettes.

The Warehouse Theatre's new production stars Ronn Carroll as the bartender, a role he originated in the show's 2013 premiere, with Brock Koonce, Matt Reece, Amanda Sox, and Anne Kelly Tromsness appearing as various familiar characters. Each of the actors created numerous memorable moments for me, including the very physical comedy of Amanda Sox, especially as she takes some very unusual drinks; Matt Reece's attitude - and hair - as he plays a certain elf; the hilarious commitment - and perfect hair choices - that Anne Kelly Tromsness brings to both of her vignettes; Ronn Carroll's wistful patience with each of his bar's visitors; and, most of all, the sweetness underlying Brock Koonce's portrayal of everyone's favorite loser, Charlie Brown.

One of the joys of the show is the way each character guides us through - and even performs memorable lines from - their original appearances. We get recaps of the Dickens story when Tiny Tim appears, for instance, and Charlie Brown shares memories of his dog along with utterances of his familiar catch phrases, all of which pleasantly tickle that nostalgia most of us have for these memorable stories. Allison M. Steadman's costumes also perfectly recreate these characters' iconic appearances, again helping both trigger my nostalgia and increase the laughs when I found out how these characters' lives turned out. And there are some really solid laughs here, even if a couple of the vignettes went on just a little too long.

If you're looking for pure seasonal warmth and good cheer, you might want to skip this more cynical show. This is more a show about how we grow up, make mistakes, and fall apart. But like a lot of Christmas memories, underneath the bitterness and regret lies a lot of laughter along with just a touch of redemption and hope. And I, for one, can always use more of those.


Christmas on the Rocks runs through December 23 at The Warehouse Theatre in Greenville, SC. For tickets and showtimes, call the box office at 864-235-6948 or visit warehousetheatre.com.

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From This Author Neil Shurley

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