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The Arts
11.16.11

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Phaedra
Photograph by Eric Chazankin
A CHRISTMAS STORY: Chris Schloemp and John David Vozatis star in this revisiting of the famous film at Sixth Street Playhouse.

Ribbons and Bows

Twists, adaptations and originals unwrapped for the stage

By David Templeton


This holiday season, the North Bay theatrical community wishes everyone peace, prosperity, warmth, love—and some eggnog, with real alcohol in it. And a mystical trip through time and space. And a Red Ryder carbine-action, two-hundred-shot, range model air rifle. But, hey, be careful. This would be a bad year to shoot your eye out.

After all, with so many dazzling holiday classics and sparkling originals lined up this side of the Golden Gate, theatergoers are advised to remain injury-free long enough to sample at least some of what our local companies have conjured for this holiday season.

First out of the gate, opening this weekend at the Sixth Street Playhouse, is a snappy stage adaptation of the beloved 1983 movie 'A Christmas Story,' adapted by Philip Grecian and directed by Bronwen Shears. Running Nov. 18–Dec. 23, A Christmas Story is based on the sneaky-sweet memoir by Jean Shepherd, telling the tale of Ralphie, a normal American kid in the 1940s, who's only got one wish for Christmas: a Red Ryder BB gun. Everything from the movie is here, including the frightening department-store Santa, the old man's inappropriate leg-shaped lamp and the kid who gets his tongue stuck to an icy flag pole.

Next door at Sixth Street's cozy Studio Theater, a different kind of winter nostalgia breaks out with John Cariani's delightfully wintry comedy-romance 'Almost, Maine.' Set in the mythical town of Almost, where anything can happen and clich–s spring to life in surprising ways, the play (Dec. 2–18) is a series of magical-realism vignettes about friends and lovers and dreamers who, all in one night, find that very strange things are happening in their town.

One woman carries her broken heart about in a paper bag until a local repairman offers to fix it; two long-time friends literally fall in love (kerplop!), hitting the ground with the realization of their suddenly undeniable feelings; another carries the soul-dragging heaviness of her long-past love in garbage bags in the trunk of her car. Poetic and moving and very, very funny, this cuddly gem of a show is directed by John Shillington.

'A Christmas Carol' returns again, with two original adaptations of the timeless tale. Running Nov. 25–Dec. 17, Santa Rosa's Imaginists Theatre Collective employs surprising physicality and inventive staging in their version of the Scrooge story, with a cast that plays all the characters—and most of the props. At Marin County's Novato Theater Company, Dickens' holiday fable (Nov. 15–Dec. 17) is given a musical spin, with original tunes using Dickens' text as lyrics.

Two more surprising adaptations of beloved and delightfully dark stories are at the Spreckels Center. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 brings a two-performance run of 'The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Ballet.' Yes, Tim Burton's macabre Christmas masterpiece will be brought to life in dance, presented by Classical and Contemporary Dance with Tamara Grose.

Then, running Dec. 2–18, it's the return of actor David Yen in David Sedaris' 'Santaland Diaries,' directed by Argo Thompson. Adapted from Sedaris' scathing memoir about his season playing an elf at Macy's Santaland, the script by Joe Mantello is a tour de force for Yen, who'll be performing the high-energy one-man show for his fourth consecutive year.

At the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa, Actors' Basement unleashes an intimate, semi-interactive version of Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' (Dec. 16–17), and in Rio Nido, Pegasus Theater presents the radio version of 'Miracle on 34th Street' (Dec. 15–18) with period songs from the '30s and '40s and live sound effects.

Finally, a grumpy blind cab driver finds love, sort of, in the darkish romantic comedy 'Light Sensitive' by Jim Geoghan. Directed by Hollywood veteran Everett Chambers (Columbo) at Sebastopol's Main Stage West (Nov. 18–Dec. 10), the three-actor free-for-all promises a bumpy but satisfying road to holiday happiness.


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