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Theater Review: "A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!" At The Kirk Douglas Theatre

Sara Itkis |
December 4, 2012 | 11:07 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter


Ron West and Brian Stepanek star in the Dickens-inspired sketch show. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
Ron West and Brian Stepanek star in the Dickens-inspired sketch show. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
“What’s that,” you say? “'A Christmas Carol' is playing at the Kirk Douglas?” 

Do not be deceived. "A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!," by Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort,  is not the heartwarming, inspirational tale of generosity and goodwill toward mankind that we know to be Charles Dickens’ holiday classic. Directed by Marc Warzecha, the show does revolve around the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s encounter with the ghosts of Jacob Marley, and of Christmas Past, Present and Future. However, that is the first and last thing it has in common with the original Dickens; the story merely serves as a link and inspiration for the countless unrelated comedy skits that comment on, satirize, and deride its source material, along with our own society. 

Allow me to give an idea of what a visit to the Kirk Douglas will offer this month: The play opens on a barbershop quartet composed of ghosts. Yes, that's right, ghosts. Namely, Jacob Marley and the three Christmas spirits. And that is only the start. Before leaving the theater, the audience is also graced by the presence of Batman, George Bailey, a host of hipsters, a handful of orphans, and a Dalek. Various sketches will casually reference each other, the “fourth wall” will be painfully knocked into, and 80’s music will be danced to. There will laughter, and quite a lot of it, to be sure. 

A ghostly quartet graces the stage in "Twist Your Dickens!" Photo by Craig Schwartz.
A ghostly quartet graces the stage in "Twist Your Dickens!" Photo by Craig Schwartz.
The cast of seven actors, who portray far more than seven characters, nails the comedic timing throughout the show. As the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge, Ron West is a thoroughly convincing curmudgeon. Or, as just about every other character calls him at one point or another (including George Bailey), he is “one cold-blooded motherfucker”—but a delightfully lively one, at that. The rest of the cast is equally animated, with Frank Caeti in particular, portraying the “rad” Ghost of Christmas Past along with many others, never running out of steam. The cast performs from a stage that is, in all technical aspects, virtually flawless. The sound and lighting designers, Cricket S. Myers and Brandon Baruch respectively, create the kind of smoothness that makes you forget about its construction altogether. The scenic designer, Tom Buderwitz, also makes his job look easy through his fluid transitions between elaborate sets. 

Written by writers for the “Colbert Report,” "Twist Your Dickens" does exactly what comedy television should do. It unashamedly makes relevant points about the world we live in with great humor and more or less in good taste. That does not mean, however, that it does everything that theater is meant to do. There is only an excuse of a storyline, and no genuine character development or cathartic emotionality. For those who go to the theater exclusively for the above, "Twist Your Dickens" may not be the right cup of tea. On the other hand, for those who can shift their standards and enjoy a night of witty, fresh comedy simply for what it is, and nothing more—the show is sure to delight and entertain.

Reach reporter Sara here. 

"A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!" is playing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232) through December 30, 2012. Tickets are $20-$65. More information can be found at CenterTheatreGroup.org.



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