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A Bloody Mary Christmas: Like The Gift of the Magi with Old Broads and a Lot More Alcohol

Space 55 Theatre Ensemble defies pinning down, even in the world of offbeat, tiny companies. The dump they perform in is nowhere near the neighborhoods that are alleged to be bohemian -- it's crammed between some faux loft apartments and ASU Downtown. The folks who run the place are super-multi-talented and married with kids -- any one of those things is, frankly, rare in the arts scene. And they not only host killer writing and acting workshops, they also present everything from extremely world-class, serious weird plays to stuff that people just pull out of their butts. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

In short, you really don't know what you're getting into on any given visit -- you might have your world rocked, you might laugh until you pee, you might wind up feeling like you really need a shower.

A Bloody Mary Christmas is based on characters developed in Space 55's Seven Minutes in . . . series (i.e., Seven Minutes in Heaven and its seasonal siblings, Seven Minutes in Hell, Seven Minutes Under the Mistletoe, and Seven Minutes in Love), with original songs by improv comedic musical combo Dangerville, so it tends toward the laugh-and-be-disgusted part of the spectrum.

Co-authors (with Denny Guge) Jacque Arend, Shawna Franks, and Stacey Reed Hanlon play retirees Bertha, Mabel, and Blanche with a sort of loopy respect -- they've worked hard to create and inhabit the ladies, physically and vocally. Our heroines share a Sun City condo and their sunset years, drinking 'round the clock, gossiping, arguing, reminiscing, looking forward to visits from an HOA rep (Dickie Briggs), and being mildly surprised when they spontaneously break into impressively belty song and realistically limited dance.

A Bloody Mary Christmas is billed as "a holiday musical for people who don't like holidays . . . or musicals," but honestly, if you do like either or both of those things (at least sometimes), you'll still find a lot to appreciate here. Many of the short scenes have that lovely crazy quality that comes from skilled, fearless improv, and the ups and downs of the ladies' lifelong friendships are solidly believable and touching while also nutty and expletive-ridden as a bingey slumber party (the show's not appropriate for children, Space 55's website states, and I agree).

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I wouldn't count this as Space 55's first musical -- it's a play with a couple of songs. Nor is it the best-structured or most incisive script ever, but it's fun and out of the ordinary.

A Bloody Mary Christmas continues through December 18 at Space 55, 636 East Pierce Street. Tickets are $15 -- $12 if you bring a canned food item to donate to St. Mary's Food Bank. Purchase them here or at the door.

A single 9 p.m. adults-only performance of Seven Minutes Under the Mistletoe will follow the Saturday, December 18, performance of A Bloody Mary Christmas -- admission is $10.

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