The Second City’s holiday stocking hanging at the Kirk Douglas is a partly improvised, mostly scripted takeoff on “A Christmas Carol” designed, as the title has it, to “Twist Your Dickens.” The kidded narrative is interspersed with yule-based sketches, offering Santa an easy accounting task: The stuff involving Ebenezer Scrooge (a crisp, droll Ron West), Tiny Tim (lovely Jean Villepique) et al is a treat, while the extra material mostly merits lumps of coal.
Spoofing “A Christmas Carol” is never going to seem totally fresh, let’s face it. But TV vets Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort get a lot of mileage drawing parallels between Scrooge and today’s Wall Street wolves, and quibbling with Dickens’ narrative choplogic: Why, they wonder, does Jacob Marley predict Scrooge will be visited by three spirits, when he himself is clearly the first of four? And come to think of it, why is Nephew Fred laughing all the time? Dan Castellaneta shines in both roles, also popping in periodically as George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
In the tastiest sequence by far, the Ghost of Christmas Past, a genial stoner dude courtesy Frank Caeti, shows Scrooge one household on the morning of Dec. 25 in three different decades shouted out by the crowd. (“Let me capture this moment!” says mom to the kids. In the 1960s she takes a Polaroid; in the 1920s she just stares at them.) Throughout the evening the troupe neatly integrates the audience’s written submissions of “the meanest thing you ever did,” which on opening night included “spanking my dog” and “yelling at my Spanish teacher.” True, those aren’t so mean, but these pros know how to twist even the lamest volunteered idea into gales of amusement.
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Would that the same Christmas miracle were visited on the other holiday-themed comedy. The first sketch, in which a woman complains her beau purchased an expensive antique ring instead of something from Kay or Zales, is dismal and goes on forever. So much for leading with one’s A material. Two Victorian lawyers’ infomercial, and a meeting of the Dickens Orphans Union, fare little better.
Larry Joe Campbell picks things up when he swings into a recording studio as Rat Pack-style crooner Gino Santini, heedlessly mangling the lyrics of seasonal favorites, but that comes late in act two. Early in act two, a celebrity guest (actor Tom Everett Scott on the first night) drops by, a nice gimmick. Tech credits are all pro.