As I pulled up in front of the Alano Club on Friday night, I told my companion who would be seeing a Prairie Dog Productions play for the first time, "Leave all your preconceived notions about theater out here in the parking lot."
It's an important part of enjoying a play put on by Prairie Dog Productions.
Where most theaters have rows of seats, PDP seats its patrons at tables--each with a complimentary basket of popcorn--often with total strangers. Where other theaters might offer wine and truffles at intermission, PDP has a snack bar with slices of Domino's pizza, candy bars and soda for sale throughout the show. And where another theater company might choose to perform a play, staying true to the original, PDP director Tate McCullough takes classics that people are familiar with, borrows song and dance routines from other plays and turns them in to what he calls, "musical melodrama parody." Scrooge: Older But Miser was no exception.
PDP's Christmas offering for this year was a take on Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge (Fred Scott) counts his money and "bah humbugs" the denizens of Dickensville, including his nephew Bob Cratchit (Jeremy Olson), Cratchit's wife Gwen (Alex Witherspoon) and their daughter Tiny Tina played by Kami Carpenter. This play has more in common with the 1988 film Scrooged than it does with the Dickens' classic, but even there, the similarities are skeletal at best.
Carpenter's Tiny Tina is an over-the-top character, possibly older than both of her parents combined. And the particular ailment with which she's afflicted and for which she needs surgery (that, of course, her poor parents can't afford) is bad hair. James Zimmerman does a nice job as Mayor Fezziwig, the pompous government official who puts on a raffle to raise money for Tina's surgery. Miss Sniviling (Angela Derisio), Scrooge's one-time romantic interest, and current secretary quits her job in a fury when Scrooge refuses to buy even one ticket. Enter the ghosts of Christmas.
The first to stop by is Marley (Truman Bishop), Scrooge's one-time business partner who himself died of bad hair, "dread-head" specifically. Marley is a walking pun, fashioned after Bob Marley instead of Jacob. He wears his hair in dreads, a knitted rasta hat, sandals and a flowered shirt. Carpenter re-emerges playing the ghost of Christmas past, fashioning her character after Carol Kane's nasty little creature in Scrooged.
Finally, helping Scrooge find his way into the light of the holiday season is a gray-faced Elvis (Anthony Sanchez), the ghost of Christmas present. Ultimately, Scrooge sees the error of his ways and is welcomed back into the family fold.
Scott and his version of Scrooge steal the show, knowing when breaking through the fourth wall is OK and when to stay in character. He has an interesting accent that vacillates between that of a British transplant and Colonel Klink. But, instead of detracting from his character, it actually makes him all the funnier. Scrooge's lines (written by McCullough and Peter Van Slyke) are riddled with puns and are funny and clever, eliciting groans and laughter from the audience. Scott's Scrooge is hard-nosed, but flickers of the humanity that will finally allow Scrooge to redeem himself can be seen throughout his performance. And, as is the acting company's tradition, the cast and crew guarantee the audience a feeling of belonging by asking them to join in a round of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" before the play begins and "Happy Trails" at the play's end.
Once again, PDP has created a family-fun performance that lies somewhere between high-art and high-school theater. When you go see a PDP play, go with an open mind, your sense of humor in high gear, and a few bucks in your pocket for a snack and a soda.
Scrooge: Older But Miser runs through Dec. 30, 7:15 p.m., $12 adults, $9 seniors and students, $6 children 12 and under. Prairie Dog Productions, 3820 Cassia St., 336-7383, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.pdplayhouse.com.