Theater Notes

Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge: Originally commissioned by City Theatre in Pittsburgh and successfully presented during the 2002 holiday season, Christopher Durang's profoundly irreverent play is a demented version of the perennial Dickens Christmas classic. This time, nasty old Ebenezer Scrooge finds that a visitation from three dead friends can change everything. Durang's giddy take on Dickens includes bumbling ghosts who, for example, turn up at the Cratchits' house far too early, where they find Mrs. Cratchit sneaking quaffs of hooch and plotting her own demise. Southwest Shakespeare is to be commended in advance for not just trotting out the original, as so many theaters do each season. Thursday, Nov. 16, through Dec. 2 at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St. in Mesa. Call 480-641-7039 for ticket and performance information.

South Pacific: Some enchanted evening between now and the first week in January, you may see a celebrated Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, but only if you head to Arizona Broadway Theatre, which is forgoing traditional holiday fare and mounting instead this popular tuner. Set in an island paradise during World War II, this dual love story based on James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific won multiple Tony Awards when it first debuted and features a score that has yielded such classics as "Bali Ha'i," "Younger Than Springtime," and, of course, "Some Enchanted Evening." Through Jan. 7 at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 W. Paradise Lane in Peoria. Call 623-776-8400 for more information.

Fat Pig: Tom is surprised to find himself falling in love with Helen, an intelligent, witty, and very overweight librarian. His friends and colleagues don't approve, and rather than forging ahead with a post-PC "love is love, darn it" attitude, he hides his romance with Helen in Neil LaBute's sassy, deeply moving morality play. Fans of LaBute won't show up expecting a happy ending, but there's plenty to love about this inspection of our crass, shallow expectations of people. Stray Cat Theatre's production stars Bronwyn Schile and runs through Saturday, Nov. 18, at Metro Arts, 1700 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix. Call 480-820-8022 for ticket prices and showtimes.

Vilna's Got a Golem: Jewish folklore tells us that a golem is a homicidal creature made of clay that, in Ernest Joselovitz's comedy, provides an opportunity to consider whether persecuted Jews should have suffered in silence or taken up arms against their oppressors. Joselovitz's deeply thoughtful play masquerades as a comedy, but behind its cartoonish monster and its sitcom sympathies, there are dark themes and troubling questions. The story of a Jewish theater troupe in 1899 imperialist Russia that performs the tale of the golem is steeped in Brechtian technique, but is staged as a contemporary comedy. Arizona Jewish Theatre Company performs the play through Sunday, Nov. 19, at Playhouse on the Park, 1850 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, located on the first floor of the Viad Corporate Center. Call 602-264-0402.

Suds: Local critics haven't much liked this goofball extravaganza of tunes from the 1960s, and who can blame them? Of the innumerable inane musical revues that attempt to wrap era-specific pop songs around a slim story, this one's the hokiest. To sell its silly tale of a Laundromat owner who attempts suicide and is cornered by a trio of guardian angels, a troupe really needs talented singers with a wide range of singing styles. Reportedly, Desert Stages has chosen a different route. But there are always audiences who don't care who's crooning "Please Mr. Postman," "You Can't Hurry Love," or "Wishing and Hoping"; they just want their big slice of '60s pie. This one may be mincemeat, but it'll be playing for months on end: Desert Stages has extended Suds, and plans to keep it afloat until Feb. 2007 in its Theatre's Actor's Cafe at 4720 N. Scottsdale Rd. in Scottsdale. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; tickets are $20 to $25. Call 480-483-1664 for reservations.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela