Kids beat up Santa, and Santa returns the favor. Carolers get shot on sight. Mom and Dad would rather go on vacation than spend Christmas morning around the tree with the kiddies.
So it goes at the Tribune Theatre in "The 2nd Annual Adults Only Christmas Pageant," which makes the Grinch look like a wimp. It may stretch for gross-out points, but it contains some truth. These days, the excesses of the season make even sending out holiday greeting cards seem an insurmountable task.
The Revolving Door company, led by Joel Beers, Jennifer Bishton and Steve Spehar, has returned for the second consecutive holiday season to trash Yuletide consumerism and sentimentality with "Saturday Night Live"-style skits.
It would be even more wickedly subversive if it were funnier.
As with virtually every skit show ever made, some bits are too short, some too long and some just right. The evening begins just right, with David Paris' "Kill Rudolph," showing a nocturnal gabfest-turned-political conspiracy among Santa's reindeer. (Paris gets off some of the show's most punishing polemics against consumer culture, made absurd coming from the mouth of a reindeer.)
The good stuff keeps coming with Paris' little gem, "Twelve Days of Christmas," in which Darri Kristin's Agnes slowly goes mad as her lover sends her everything from six geese a-layin' to nine pipers piping. You'll never hear the song the same way again.
Alas, it's followed by weak material such as Chris Egger's "Panty Clause" (we won't explain) and Spehar's "The Carolers Who Wouldn't Go Home," a good, self-descriptive idea that overstays its welcome as much as the carolers. Egger's "Kids in Class" is only mildly satirical as it shows Martina Paris' teacher battered with some difficult Christmas questions.
Better than most of the mess that passes for comedy on "SNL" these days, Beers' "The Three Wise Guys" has Bradley A. Whitfield, Nicholas Boicourt Jr. and Spehar as the trio searching for Jesus, only bearing Uzis, brass knuckles and a baaad attitude instead of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Beers comes back in Act 2 with the show's most irreverent skit--a playlet, really--"Idiot Messiah." Spehar, all doe-eyed blank looks, plays "another Jesus" near Bethlehem who is used by wily exploiters Whitfield and Bishton to sell the masses on a new organized religion "that will kick some Roman butt." Beers pulls few punches in the few minutes he has, even suggesting (as many have) that Mary was used to sell Christianity to goddess-worshiping pagans. This is funny, cruel stuff.
Angeline Cook's "Bell Ringer" suggests that those seemingly cheery ringers for donations to the poor are really lechers and racists under the skin. It's an easy target, though, like the trailer park clan in the final skit by Spehar, "White Trash Christmas," whose idea of a great Christmas gift is a hemorrhoid pad or cheese popcorn. Spehar caps it with the funny return of his carolers who won't go away--and this time, he knows what to do with them.
* "The 2nd Annual Adults Only Christmas Pageant" ends tonight at the Tribune Theatre, 116 1/2 W. Wilshire Ave., Fullerton. 8 p.m. $5. (714) 525-3403.
Ensemble: Joel Beers, Jennifer Bishton, Nicholas Boicourt Jr., Angeline Cook, Chris Egger, Deborah Violet Germinaro, Darri Kristin, Lynnae Hitchcock, E. Jack Mugwump, Hugo Mireles, Tyler Paris, Martina Paris, Steve Spehar, Beth Ricketson and Bradley A. Whitfield.
A Revolving Door production. Skits by David Paris, Egger, Spehar, Beers and Cook.