Christmas cranks love to give a good poke at beloved holiday traditions. But you don’t have to be a total Grinch to enjoy The Second City’s swing at “A Christmas Carol.” Written by Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort and directed by Matt Hovde, “Twist Your Dickens, or Scrooge You!” makes delicious mincemeat of the sometimes treacly sentiments of the season.
The refreshingly irreverent show debuted in Los Angeles in 2012. Since then, Gwinn and company have tinkered with it, always leaving enough leeway for the production to be tailored to audiences in whichever city it’s performed. What’s more, the Chicago rendition — presented by Goodman Theatre — will feature local celebs in cameo roles at each show. Among those slated to test their comedic chops are restaurateur and “Top Chef” winner Stephanie Izard, Chicago Cubs announcer Len Kasper, WBBM-TV’s Bill Kurtis, best-selling mystery author Sara Paretsky and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Gwinn — an Emmy Award-winner for his work as a writer on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” — delights in seeing Christmas through his children’s eyes, and in the fact that the production breathes new life into a classic tale. “My favorite thing about ‘A Christmas Carol’ is that it’s a story that everybody knows, but nobody has read,” he says. “It’s also much more fun to satirize something that so many people know, as you don’t have to do any of the work of educating your audience about your subject.”
Punctuated with improvisation and incorporating “misdeeds” solicited from the audience in the lobby before the show, “Twist Your Dickens” wanders far from 19th-century London, referencing such figures as Little Orphan Annie and the Misfit Toys of the 1964, stop-motion animation classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
“And there’s also a level of social commentary,” say Gwinn, founder of the improv troupe Baby Wants Candy. “Scrooge expresses some sentiments in the beginning of the story that are almost identical to sentiments that I have heard expressed recently by certain members of Congress or presidential candidates. I’m not sure if that fact reflects well on the timelessness of Dickens, or reflects poorly on Congress. Either way, it sets up some fun jokes.” And God bless us, everyone!
‘Twist Your Dickens, or Scrooge You!’: Dec. 5-28, Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn. For tickets ($17-$48), call (312) 443-3800 or visit Goodmantheatre.org/twist.