It’s no secret that Chicago is home to a comedy powerhouse that’s given us more amazing comedic talent than there’s space to mention here. Second City is rightfully revered, and continues to mold young comedians into legends. It’s also no secret that even those most Christmas-crazed can reach a point of overload with traditional Christmas fare.
Luckily for us, Second City has teamed up with the Goodman Theatre to create the perfect antidote–a ridiculous, rolling-on-the-floor-laughing send-up of A Christmas Carol known as Twist Your Dickens. Though the show, written by Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort of Colbert Report fame, had its original run in Los Angeles, the Chicago show has been tailored to fit the Third Coast the most, with over 50% of the script rewritten for the new collaboration. The new show, while expertly lampooning Charles Dickens’ classic, also finds time for seriously silly sidebars including radio shows, department store commercials and time travel interludes that include the audience for some Chicago-style improv fun.
Ron West, who also portrayed Scrooge in the LA production, is quick to show audiences why he’s the man for the job, with pitch perfect sarcasm and silliness, fantastic improv chops, and an uncanny ability to be Tim Gunn-level likeable even in his role as one of history’s most miserable misers. He pilots the show through heckles, spectacle and specters, including some of our favorites in this all-around impressive cast, like Joel Boyd, who puts in a lot of legwork during the show fulfilling multiple ridiculous roles, the best of which is as the ghost of Christmas Past, a formidable thorn in Scrooge’s side who he can never seem to truly be rid of.
We also loved Carisa Barreca in her “fresh” from TBOX portrayal of Christmas Present. Perpetually plastered and unable to enunciate, Barreca nevertheless manages to lay out Scrooge’s misdeeds in front of him, even as she, at times, is laid out on stage. With a wit and physicality that recall Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, Carisa was a more than welcome addition to any scene she was in, whether majestically sailing out of scene on a fireplace or flopping like a fish on the floor.
There are so many standouts in this cast it’d be hard to pick a favorite, but were we pressed, we might choose Sarah Dell’Amico. For Dickens, she plays Tiny Tim as well as an onslaught of amusing side characters, including a violent Girl Scout, a TV exec’s snotty and quite strange secretary, and my favorite, one creepy half of a ’70s brother/sister musical outfit. Her character’s incredibly unsettling undulating quite literally had me laughing until I cried, and as Tiny Tim, that same comedic physicality made every one of her entrances hysterical.
With just enough set work, a great sound and light team, and the incredibly comedically gifted cast, Twist Your Dickens is an absolute blast, delivering a fantastic parody of a Christmas favorite as well as a healthy dose of improv, and as such we highly recommend the show.
Twist Your Dickens will play at the Goodman Theatre until December 30. Ticket prices range from $25-47 and are available via the Goodman’s box office or online at goodmantheatre.org/Twist, and a wide range of discounts are available, including half-price day-of mezzanine tickets, which release at 10am on performance days with promo code MEZZTIX, group and student discounts. The Goodman Theatre is located at 170 N. Dearborn St.