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Review: Every Christmas Story has a lot to fit in

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Every Christmas story should have an unintelligible Scotsman completely irrelevant to the plot mixed in with the traditional Christmas themes. It works for Threshold Rep's current holiday show, Every Christmas Story Ever Told. Save for Linus' recitation of the Nativity according to Luke 2 in A Charlie Brown Christmas, Every Christmas Story Ever Told is a comedic commentary on the secularization and commercialization of the Christmas holiday that also ties in traditions from elsewhere in Christendom. Disclaimer: the existence of Santa Claus is debated to an absolute conclusion.

Under Michael Kordek's direction, this production is a follow-up to last year's Charleston debut, with some rewriting of the original by a three-man writing team in Cape May, N.J. Two cast members return, Peter Galle and Larry Perewiznyk, while Shawn Stoner and Steven Cardinal join the cast. Structured as a play within a play, Stoner plays Shawn, who wants to perform the theater company's traditional production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Galle and Pereqiznyk, who play Peter and Larry, kvetch at the dreadful idea of performing the Victorian classic one more time, and they persuade Shawn to create with them an amalgam of every Christmas story ever told.

Using improvisational audience suggestions and participation, the cast of four, including Cardinal, who plays Steven, spends the first act recreating and modifying modern Christmas stories, such as "Gustav the Green-Nosed Reingoat" and a special Christmas version of the "Dating Game" reworked as the "Fruit and Date Game." Pop culture references are made for all ages to appreciate, and for the academic and literati set, they offer up Dylan Thomas' "Christmas in Whales" and Wikipedia's anthropological expertise on Christmas traditions on Easter Island. While the concept works, and the laughs from the audience are plentiful and boisterous, the first act is a bit chaotic, disjointed, and too long.

Act II in contrast is a smooth syncretization of It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. The streamlined script and fewer characters allow for a steadier pace and polished performances from the actors.

The whole cast clearly revels in the multiple roles and jocular antics of the parody. Perewiznyk's years of experience as an improvisational actor are maximized throughout the show. His rendition of the abominable snowman attacking the lumberjack is off-the-wall comedy. Galle's effeminate Peter nicely contrasts with his convincing impersonation of Mr. Potter. However, he makes for a hideous Donna Reed. Committed to his beloved Dickens' tale, Stoner playfully juggles his roles, from the bearded Clara of the Nutcracker Suite to George Bailey and Ebenezer Scrooge.

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