Parents needn't worry too much about the theater's warning that the slaughter scene may disturb the tender consciences of children under 10. When the babies are "shot" by military goons, the cardboard kids simply pop off their cardboard parents and fall onto the floor, where the ghost of death sweeps them up. When asked what his favorite part was after the show, my four-and-a-half-year-old son immediately answered, "the death skull."
THIS ISN'T A true holiday show, so much as a few holiday-oriented bits tacked on to the troupe's current offering, a dazed tour of hotspots in the sexual revolution (which is still on, believe you me). Skits deal with all areas of sexual preference among human adults, though the funniest bit takes place in a support group for people in the process of changing species: One's becoming a pony, one a loon, the group leader a squirrel. Some skits are just plain weird, like "Cute Man," a takeoff of Dead Man Walking about a crazy guy on death row with a freakishly high voice.
The most remarkable thing about Gender Vittles, though, is the way it veers around all your expectations of a Brave New Workshop show. It's obviously geared toward a far younger and hipper audience than shows of recent vintage, with sketches that don't seem overly concerned with whether these folks can immediately understand what's going on at any given moment. The skits touch on some pretty painful subjects--castration, domestic violence, sexual harassment, cruelty to children--and I left feeling a little greasy all over. I don't recall if the actors swore (except for using the word "bitch"), but I feel as if they did--all night long. It's that kind of show. And for the moment, that's rather refreshing, considering the source. (Sullivan)
Through January 11 at the Dudley Riggs Theater; 332-6620.
IF A CHRISTMAS CAROL is what you want, you must get to the Guthrie. The Guthrie has managed to keep this chestnut warm against all odds--though, granted, it helps inestimably to have Dickens writing your material. This year's Scrooge, Jarlath Conroy, is especially good: Instead of eagerly metamorphosing into a good-doer, Conroy maintains continuity between malevolent and virtuous Scrooge; he's the same person, only peering through a new set of spectacles. (And Conroy's eyebrows-askew grimace is one of the Scroogiest I've ever seen.)
Unfortunately, Sir John Gielgud's taped narration gets lost amid the hubbub of rousing party scenes, and the great actor's diction is failing. It's a shame, because the show's sharpest component is still Dickens's sublime prose. Richard Ooms allows us to see him trying to be scary as Marley's ghost, which deflates the spookiness of his bedroom invasion. Still, this excellent Christmas Carol preserves Dickens's message: None of us lives in a vacuum, and we ignore human interdependence our own peril. (Ursu)
Through December 28 at the Guthrie Theater; 377-2224.