Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009

Christmas Irreverence

This Weekend Two Holiday Spoofs Open A Handfull of Paces Away From Each Other

By Russ Bickerstaff
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There is something intrinsically irreverent about the holiday season. Christians are quick to point out the commercialism that has hijacked the holy day, leading people astray from the “true meaning,” of the holiday season. They do so having forgotten that the Christian use of the holiday was itself a hijacking of the original pagan celebration it helped to wipe-out.  Jesus Christ is a brand name that’s been thrust upon the Winter solstice like the commercialism that followed it. And just as the Vegas-like Christmas display on a lawn near my south side home has a special place set aside for the two wisemammals Mickey and Snoopy, there will always be a mutation in the holiday from generation to generation, And while it’s reassuring that the Milwaukee Rep’s A Christmas Carol continues to for another year, it’s also reassuring that there are other holiday traditions that continue this year from last. And in continuing a tradition borrowed from Christianity, they’re both pretty irreverent. Here are the two local holiday shows local audiences enjoyed last year that return again this week:



More than one person has asked Patrick Schmitz to write a sequel to his live-action spoof of the durable, decades-old Rankin and Bass animated Rudolph TV specials. In response, he’s working on something entirely different. He doesn’t want to be known as “that guy”—the one whose career is based on a popular gimmick. Who can blame him? His spoof was successful enough to return to the Alchemist theatre for a second year—not bad for an entirely independent production. In its second year, Rudolph the Pissed-Off Reindeer continues to sell-out performances (at least 4 as of this writing with more inevitable as Friday’s opening approaches. As popular as the comedy is, Schmitz still expressed concern that some people may hear the title and expect Rudolph to go ballistic, ripping through the cast of loveable characters with a semi-automatic. Suffice it to say, that’s not what’s going on here. It’s not that kind of comedy. It’s sort of a comedic cross between the stop-motion TV specials (executed with precision by a talented cast) and police detective shows like The Usual Suspects. It’s irreverent, but it’s got heart.

Rudolph the Pissed-Off Reindeer
runs through December 19th at the Alchemist Theatre



A holiday spoof with puppets, playwright Neil Haven's Who Killed Santa? isn’t exactly a children’s show. Rudolph, Santa, Frosty, The Little Drummer Boy, Tiny Tim and others get together for a holiday party. Santa is killed and the whole thing turns into a murder-mystery comedy with a variable ending hinging on audience vote. The puppets by Dan Katula are high-end Muppet-looking things, some of which have an interesting range of emotion. Returning to the cast are Amy Geyser, Sophia Petropoulos, Nate Press behind the puppets and Bo Johnson in the role of non-puppet Detective brought-in to figure it all out. The returning cast is joined by talented actors Rick Pendzich and Liz Shipe. Pendzich and Shipe should be excellent additions to a cast that has already been through a previous production. Also new this year: a couple of songs have been added to the show and there’s one new potential ending.

The show comes to a new venue this year, as it makes it to a new venue—the Bay View Brew Haus on 2535 South K.K, just a few paces north of the Alchemist Theatre on 2569 South K.K. Who Killed Santa? runs this Friday through December 27th. Tickets can be reserved by calling 414-839-7801 or emailing: bojohnson@wi.rr.com

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