Screw XMas and Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Screw XMas and Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer



Screw Xmas, Sweetback Productions, at the Theatre Building, and Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, Sweetback Productions, at the Theatre Building. All I want for Christmas is more rehearsal time for the talented actors in Screw Xmas, a series of monologues whose writers would rather you be kicked than kissed under the mistletoe. Despite the performers' flubs and general unease with the five pieces on opening night (there's a rotating ensemble of 17), these monologues have more smartly written, heartfelt moments than dozens of other holiday shows with their dreary elves and tired carols.

The best of the bunch was "Holiday Traditions," Merrie Greenfield's melancholy but loony account of Christmas death and destruction: this poised smart aleck storyteller finds a kind heart in sad words and gracefulness in a careful glance. The other, mostly gay-themed monologues are comical, wistful, or angry, but all falter under writer-performers uneasy with the material. Grandmas with cancer, a fat gay junkie who lives at Man's Country, a line like "That's for your face, not your cock!"--these may have been penned from the heart but don't have much life when delivered with so little command. Still, with some fine-tuning this could be the funniest, nastiest holiday show in town.

The return of Sweetback's trannie Rudolph and friends will delight fans of the show's boozy, homo-for-the-holidays antics. The Island of Misfit Toys scene is a particular treasure--how could it not be with bitter newcomer Trailer-Trash Barbie and Tina Haglund's flawlessly accurate costumes (the spotted elephant will make your heart leap)?

Writer David Cerda and director Steve Hickson too often go for easy laughs, producing humor for people who don't get out much. But bravo to Cerda for a script as contemptuous of gay men's fondness for petty backstabbing as it is of parents much better at dealing with the business of Christmas than with its attendant emotions. And worth the price of admission are two stellar performances: Steve Shriner does Burl Ives better than Burl Ives, and Todd Ball gave me the chilly-willies as Herbie, a pompadoured gay elf who wants to be a dentist.

--Erik Piepenburg

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