In "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues," playwright Jeff Goode reimagined Santa's reindeer as a group of sodden malcontents who rant on about the perversity and abuses of their slave-master, Santa. That sarcastic send-up, widely produced for the last 20 years or so, struck an obvious chord.
In "Christmas 2," a world premiere by Skypilot Theatre, Goode once again strikes a broadly satirical tone. But this time, he skewers the the sacred legend of the Nativity, complete with foul language and the kind of broad slapstick that wouldn't be misplaced in an old-time burlesque house. The result is frequently hilarious -- although those who are sensitive about their religious archetypes should steer clear.
The action, of course, revolves around Jesus (Jude Evans), now 30, who is lying low as a village veterinarian. With a massive Roman bounty on his head, Jesus, a.k.a. Manny (for Emmanuel, get it?), refuses to acknowledge his divinity for fear of Roman reprisals. Meanwhile, his pregnant significant other, Maggie, short for Magdalene (Eliza Kiss), has to cope with the hypercritical Virgin Mary (Ellen Rae Littman), a Portnoy-esque character who specializes in guilt trips.
The constant deafening approbation of an opening weekend audience, most of whom, one suspects, were friends of someone in the show, made it difficult to assess the actual merits of the piece. However, pithy epigrams ("Get thee behind me, Santa!") abound, and Goode directs his own work with formidable brio. The performers, most of whom are double cast, snap out their one-liners with the rim-shot resonance of seasoned vaudevillians, particularly Anthony Backman, a real hoot as John the Baptist.
It eventually becomes apparent that this overlong play, at nearly 2½ hours, is a bit too much of a good thing. Certain sprawling and discursive plot lines could be easily trimmed, an adjustment that could make this "Christmas" a perennial pleasure.
"Christmas 2," T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. 8 p.m. Dec. 6 and 13. Ends Dec. 22. $20. (800) 838-3006. www.SkyPilotTheatre.com. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.