Twist Your Dickens
comes to Portland Center Stage with a sparkling pedigree. Its writers, Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort, won Emmys for their work on The Colbert Report
. Director Matt Hovde and a few cast members hail from Chicago’s improv behemoth the Second City. Portlanders with strong comedic records round out the cast. But from the first gag to the last, this spoof of A Christmas Carol
serves up nothing but coal. Jokes are alternately lazy (foul-mouthed nuns), pandering (Obamacare), insulting (“Police Navidad”) and tone-deaf (JFK’s assassination). The overlong show is structured loosely like that Victorian story, with Scrooge (Craig Cackowski) meeting various ghosts as he learns lessons of generosity and goodwill. Along the way, he encounters everyone from George Bailey (John San Nicolas does an impeccable job with Jimmy Stewart’s nervous, nasal voice), to a Girl Scout who says she took a shit in his box of Thin Mints, to the entire Peanuts
gang, who turn A Charlie Brown Christmas
into a profanity-laced pageant with Linus evangelizing about the rapture. And didn’t Portlandia
long ago teach us that you can’t just put an actor in flannel, hand him a PBR tall boy and give him jokes about double-decker fixies? (“Abysmal,” my friend whispered to me.) When the performers are allowed to improvise, things improve marginally—on opening night, Cackowski and San Nicolas riffed on an audience member who’d once locked his brother in a sewing-machine case. But all told, it’s a stiff and unfunny cash grab with an aftertaste worse than that of spoiled eggnog.
128 NW 11th Ave.Website: pcs.org