The best way to describe Christopher Durang's Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge, now at Little Lake Theatre, is to call it a curmudgeonly Christmas confetti cannon.
In this loopy retelling of A Christmas Carol, Durang combines shredded parts of Dickens with swipes at It's a Wonderful Life, Touched by an Angel, soupy seasonal sentimentality, hammy child actors and the scourge of alcoholism. He stuffs it all down the cannon's muzzle, lights the fuse and stands back. Mrs. Bob is an explosion of comedy bits landing all over the stage, actors and audience.
The ghosts from Christmas Carol are rolled into one character, intent on getting Scrooge to the redemptive ending. But this Ghost seems to have skipped a few classes at Specter School, and keeps transporting Scrooge to the wrong place and/or time. They're joined by Gladys Cratchit (Bob's wife), who hates her family, is usually drunk and always looking to kill herself. And Durang continually adds more and more on top.
While most of this is very, very funny, I did find myself wishing that Durang would quit expanding his landscape and zero in on one element.
With such a no-holds-barred script, the company's task is to just hold on. Durang has made director Jena Oberg's job especially difficult. She does a terrific job following Durang down every rabbit hole ... but that's both a good and a bad thing. Individual beats and scenes are given full-throated life — there are moments when you have to sit in your seat while peeing with laughter — but we lose the spine of the story, and that undermines the comedy.
Deborah Bender, as the Ghost/Narrator, has a mammoth job working to add structure to this unwieldy script, and for the most part she succeeds. Art DeConciliis is pitch-perfect playing this time-shifting Scrooge. The role of Gladys is a thankless one: By design, she's incredibly unpleasant — an interesting idea for a lead character — but Leah Hillgrove uses her considerable talents to make her journey our journey.
There's a host of supporting actors, all contributing their own zaniness, but I want to mention Andy Coleman's shameless scene-stealing and Luke Graci, who as the pathetically sappy Tiny Tim made me want to beat him with his crutch ... and I mean that as a compliment.