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BWW Review: The Second City's TWIST YOUR DICKENS at The Kennedy Center

Dickensian purists and rabid followers, be warned in advance: this is not your typical "A Christmas Carol". There are skateboarding ghosts, celebrity origin stories, murderous plots and even rewrites of classic TV specials. But don't worry, your concerns will come from the audience. It's all part of the messy fun that is The Second City's TWIST YOUR DICKENS, currently playing at The Kennedy Center Theatre Lab.

This is my third Second City show here in DC, and while the other two followed a few central themes, this one follows Charles Dickens' classic, as they put it, not-so-subtle allegory. Writers Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort use the story as a touchstone for the show while interspersing cameos of well-known characters and random improv scenes to remind you of just what this company does well.

The structure overall makes for a pretty funny experience. Frank Caeti is hilarious as The Ghost of Christmas Past (past being a very broad term), Tia Shearer awkwardly pulls heartstrings as Tiny Tim, and Jaime Moyer's brash stage presence makes for a lot of sidesplitting gags. John Lescault as Scrooge felt too overboard a lot of the time, but his ability to fit in current event jokes and roll with the curveballs ultimately helped.

Other highlights of the show included a fun twist on The Ghost of Christmas Future, as well as audience participation. Audience members can write misdeeds to forge Marley's chain before the show, and it's entirely possible they will be read during the performance.

That having been said, this show could be stronger. The Second City normally puts on very tight, well planned shows, and this one just fell short. Transitions between scenes often felt rushed or not thought through, lighting cues seemed wrong, and the cast wasn't synced up in places where they could be.

I also very much missed the smart in this show. While some clever jokes certainly appeared throughout, it didn't seem to have a central idea or thought-provoking message as previous productions have. If the message is good holiday fun, so be it, and it's needed right now, but overall this didn't align with the elevated standard of what I have previously seen. It just felt like a sketch that the writers tried to stretch into a full show.

If you crave a ridiculous holiday escape, this show is a pretty fine option for solid laughs. However, be warned going in that there have been (and hopefully will be) better productions from this company.

The Second City's TWIST YOUR DICKENS plays at The Kennedy Center Theatre Lab until December 31st. For more information, visit the production page.

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From This Author Heather Nadolny