Changing Scene Theatre Northwest launched into the holiday season with a fun-filled production of Mark Harvey Levine’s “A Very Special Holiday Special.” The show consists of seven comedic sketches that examine humorous aspects of the holidays from a variety of perspectives.
The show kicks off with the traditional manger scene: Joseph (Larry Chandler) and Mary (Chelsea Pedro) and the three kings (Betzy Miller, Karen Noyes and Curtis Beech) are at the Baby Jesus’ hay trough. Then Mary’s mother Ann (Carol Wieltschnig) and father Joachim (Douglas Ernest) arrive. They act in the way of stereotypical Jewish parents: the mother, toting a brisket, unashamedly plays up the guilt factor; the father comes in late because he was circling around Bethlehem looking for a good parking spot.
In the second skit, Eric Cuestas-Thompson plays drunken Uncle Charlie who bursts the bubble of belief in Santa and has to make his niece, Kate (Miller), feel happy again by explaining that she is now part of the biggest conspiracy in history: that of pretending that Santa is real when younger children are around.
“You Better Watch Out” is one of the high points of the show. It paints a literalistic portrait of the culturally conservative mantra of there being “a war on Christmas.” Here, a Buddhist couple are busted by a trio of soldiers because they don’t have any Christmas decorations on their house. The soldiers, General Merriment (Julie Cole), Major Holiday (Wieltschnig) and Private Celebration (Miller) are dressed in black army helmets with Christmas bows on top.
“A Very Special Hanukkah Special” blends elements of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” as it shows what happens when a Jewish character, Murray (Cuestas-Thompson), is granted his wish that Hanukkah would become as big a deal as Christmas.
In a riff on the “what is Christmas all about?” scene of the Charlie Brown special, Murray cries out: “Can anyone tell me what Hanukkah is all about?” Then, like Linus in the Charlie Brown special, Kim (Wieltschnig) requests a spotlight and quotes the story of Hanukkah from what sounds like the book of Maccabees.
“Best Present Ever” is about a lonely woman celebrating Christmas with only her dog and cat to keep her company.
“Oh, Tannenbaum” is a dialogue between a Jewish man and a talking Christmas tree that, ironically, is also Jewish.
“Les Miserabeleves” brings the entire cast into play for what is a spoof on the popular 1964 Christmas stop-motion animated television special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The absurdities and details of the well-known Christmas story are milked for comedic content.
The show is directed by Pavlina Morris, the founder and artistic director of Changing Scene. Morris is a humanities, theatre and film professor for Vincennes University. She is also the vice president of the Washington State Community Theatre Association.
Playwright Levine is a prolific writer of short plays. His works have been produced more than 1,500 times at locations all over the globe. This year, Levine’s holiday plays are being performed at City Theatre of Miami, The Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis and OnStage Atlantis.
Changing Scene Theatre Northwest started off in 2002 in the Bremerton area, but more recently has become centered in Tacoma and may even have found a stable home in the Dukesbay Theater, inside the Merlino Building at 508 6th Ave. #10, Tacoma.
“A Very Special Holiday Special” runs through Dec. 16 with shows on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. There is one Sunday performance scheduled for Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. For further information call (360) 710-5440 or visit changingscenenorthwest.org.