Would that I could end this review on that high note. But alas, duty requires that I also report on the second Playhouse offering, Every Christmas Story Ever Told, which performs in repertory with Catechism. Repertory is a dangerous enterprise for any theater at any time, but never more so than now, when so many theatergoing decisions are made at the last minute — and a viewer might not be sure which play is being staged when. The Playhouse management has bitten off an ambitious endeavor, and to no real avail, because Every Christmas Story Ever Told is about as cheerful as a flat tire in a rainstorm.
This dubious notion of three guys (Alan Knoll, Chopper Leifheit, Bobby Miller) trying to ape classic holiday material is derivative to the point of copyright infringement. It could be argued that there's not one single original moment in the entire first act. On the other hand, if witticisms like suggesting that A Child's Christmas in Wales was written by Bob Dylan and The Gift of the Magi was penned by William Henry Porter, "known as the candy bar O. Henry" amuse you, then have at it.
Bobby Miller, Alan Knoll and Chopper Leifheit zip through the holidays in Story.
Sister's Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi's Gold | Every Christmas Story Ever ToldThrough December 30 at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $41 (tickets for Every Christmas Story are $29.50 and $35). Call 314-469-7529 or visit www.theplayhouseatwestport.com.
We're also treated to the obligatory: guys in drag, more audience participation. (These three could take a lesson from watching the respect with which Sister treats her victims.) We sense that the three performers had a grand time amusing each other in rehearsal, but it doesn't carry over into the production, which, as directed by Lee Anne Mathews, mistakes faster for funnier.
Then in Act Two (yes, Virginia, there is an Act Two; this extended revue actually has the temerity to take an intermission), the triad stages a version of A Christmas Carol interspersed with references from It's a Wonderful Life. It's no secret that the venerable Capra film borrowed liberally from Dickens' plot. But to see these couplings acted out almost borders on the original. Among the lengthy sketch's happier moments, Knoll makes up for his Act One Paul Lynde impersonations by concocting an endearingly angelic Clarence.
It ain't art, but at least it salvages the evening from being a total loss.