Theater Review: Edith McCauley: Christmas in July at Pec Playhouse

Mark Kann assembles a cast with impeccable comedic timing and the ability to play off the lines of the other actors. Described as a “wacky holiday comedy,” Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge turns the Dickens classic upside down. The choice of the work for a summer presentation makes Christmas in July a reality.

Kann continues to be the center of Pec’s productions. As director, set designer, music director, publicity and programs, and in this play as Ebenezer Scrooge, his many talents are showcased.

Diane Grosvenor-Johnson hilariously portrays the crotchety Mrs. Cratchit. Her skill in changing from a loving mother to harridan momentarily astounds. Add the body language, and you have the epitome of comedy.

Kann, as Scrooge, presents the image of Dickens’ character until he meets the universal Ghost, Luciana Fleming. Fleming, in a constant state of confusion, often breaks into song. “Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness,” a Fats Waller classic, lends the perfect sense of the unexpected. There is not a weak link.

Ian Storck, a saccharine Tiny Tim, gets on everyone’s nerves, and as his father, Bob, Paul Schneider is equally sweet. They are the perfect foil for Mrs. Cratchit’s angst.

There are bits from every Christmas classic…Jerry Vander Hayden appears as Clarence, the angel, with George Bailey popping on stage for a second. Ed Stiltner and Karen Guler play a Dutch couple, complete with wooden shoes, whose sacrifices give “The Gift” its meaning. When this scene began, my laughter could not be contained. The contemporary characters, two gentlemen callers who convince Scrooge to buy “energy units,” are Jeffrey Skilling and Ken Lay. Lay’s collapse, resulting in his being dragged off stage, may not have been in the original script, but it works.

Christmas parody songs add to the hilarity. Listening carefully, you hear the nuances of music found on the Web site of the Bob Rivers’ Show from Seattle. The uncomplicated set lends itself to the many scene changes. In all, the Wild Christmas Binge is a midsummer break from the dire news on CNN. We need a laugh. If friend Julian is the example, you won’t find another show that is so funny.

Pec Playhouse Theatre is upgrading its space. New, comfortable seating, attractive carpeting and an electrical system that works. Since purchasing the theater, there has been an ongoing fund-raiser. Any donations are appreciated. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by calling 239-1210. At 314 Main St. in Pecatonica, it’s only a short drive from Rockford. The current show runs through Aug. 13 with performances Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Do go—you need a laugh.

From the Aug. 9-15, 2006, issue

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