“Twist Your Dickens” – Phoenix Theatre


Hormel Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

For years, I reviewed Actors Theatre’s annual staging of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”  While always well acted, beautifully designed, and creatively staged by the company’s producing artistic director Matthew Wiener, seeing the same show year-after-year became a bit of a bore.  Now that Actors Theatre has sadly closed, their holiday show has disappeared until Phoenix Theatre decided to turn a sly eye to the immortal tale and produce Chicago’s Second City developed humorous slam, “Twist Your Dickens.”

The hysterical jab at the story includes the familiar characters enacted by a comically adept ensemble who recreate the story with a brightly mocking slant that kept audiences doubled over with laughter opening night.  Much of the humor comes from the wild antics of the acting ensemble who use split second comic timing to make silly and often predictable shenanigans funny.  They step in and out of character to add even more humor and they bring the audience into the carryings on further enhancing the frivolous hilarity.

Details would ruin the show for those lucky enough to see it.  Know that pointed local references populate the clever script conceived by Chicago writers Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort.  Know also that Scrooge and his bah humbugging attitude get a grilling while other characters get dissected with mocking humor.  Some of the show’s success is attributable to the delicious comic nonsense director Matthew Weiner adds, a cleverly designed set that opens up as set pieces fly on and off stage with amazing precision, and costumes that add their own frivolity.

But the real reason for “Twist Your Dickens” triumphant polish is the comic panache of the gifted cast that insert a ribald comic sense to bring off the show’s silliness.  Heading the cast is crafty Robert Kolby Harper as a flagrantly flamboyant and evil Scrooge who experiences a magical transformation into a caring man.  Cathy Dresbach finds endless comic gems from her portrayals of Mrs. Fezziwig and Mrs. Cratchit.  Gene Ganssle parades around as a narrator of sorts along with ripe takes on Fred, Marley, and Fezziwig.  David Dickenson has fun as Bob Cratchit as he accepts lots of rabid razing from Scrooge, and Kyle Sorrell is a masterful Tiny Tim.  Maren Maclean shines as Sister Agatha, and Kate Haas swings as the Ghost of Christmas Present and is a hoot as Belle.

If traditional classics aren’t your thing and if you want to laugh at things always revered, the five stars out of five revelry of “Twist Your Dickens” is for you.  It continues through December 24.  To order tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A