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Edward Gorey's Dispirited Diversion for Christmas

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Edward Gorey's Dispirited Diversion for Christmas, Hypocrites, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Take two Gorey tales, the glumly delirious results of an attempted Christmas Carol adaptation; weave in the poker-faced gigantism of writer Sean Graney at his broadest; add the physically engaged, pictorial storytelling of director Halena Kays; and you get a fair idea of this absurd little holiday treat.

The material defies much further description. Several apparitions guide cipher Edmund Gravel through a series of deadpan gothic tableaux, but except for some polite mockery of the master's well-intentioned didacticism, Gorey's riff is otherwise tangential to the Dickens classic. Revisiting a favorite device, Graney sets the play within another, heightening the oblique whimsicality of every vignette; Kays fleshes out the framing bits to convey an illusion of amateurism while maintaining a firm hand on the wandering narrative.

Aaron Cedolia brings a twitching hilarity to his supercilious narrator, and the supporting players stud their performances with comic tics. Steve Wilson is all twittish charm as Gravel, and Matt Miller embodies baffled exasperation as his taciturn giant-insect companion, Bahhumbug. Playing a bunch of precisely overdone spirits, Eric Thomas Roach nearly steals the show. It's cheerfully bad, utterly meaningless stuff; but in the words of Gorey himself, "If you're doing nonsense, it has to be awful."

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