Threshold Repertory Theater joins Charleston’s holiday theater season with their production of Every Christmas Story Ever Told. The first play from the upstart company looks to claim a seat at the city’s crowded theater table, but ends up more suited to sit with the kids.
The show, directed by Threshold artistic director Mark Mixson, is a two-hour whirlwind through all the beloved holiday classics that litter our stages, televisions, and bookshelves each and every Christmas. Everything from Rudolph and Frosty to the timeless A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life is touched during the show, many subject to the playful ribbing of the show’s cast (David Moon, Peter Galle, Larry Perewiznyk, and David Graham).
While the four actors do a solid job of delivering the laughs, the show itself fails to rise to the technical challenge. Memminger Auditorium defeats the production by swallowing or muffling the majority of the sound, making much of the show simply inaudible to anyone not in the first three rows. The lack of any sort of amplification for the actors, save a stationary microphone for Graham to mumble into, is a technical misstep that the show never really recovers from. Oddly enough, the second act had lighting miscues that were absent from the first act, although the opening of the show suffered from very unfortunate shadowing. I could not see Perewiznyk’s face for the first 20 minutes.
Every Christmas Story Ever Told, by amalgamating a collection of related works into a comic interpretation, immediately draws comparisons to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), and both are structured similarly. Where both shows live and die is in the pacing of the comedy. Jokes have to hit with rapid-fire precision. The cast here struggles with the first act, and it’s not until act two (where the only stories to tell are the two majors listed above) that the actors are really cooking with gas. David Moon’s Ebenezer Scrooge/George Bailey is fantastic, and he switches between them with sublime ease.
Too bad half the audience missed it. Because the first act runs an hour and a half, and since the intermission break comes off as a clever and fitting finale to the play itself, a large percentage of the audience was missing after intermission. This was probably due to the lack of any mention of a break in the curtain speech and the full-length run time of act one.
There’s great potential here for a holiday sensation. The show plays well to the entire family, with the exception of a bit about the existence of Santa Clause that drags and reveals far too much considering the number of small children in the audience. I swear I saw a little girl crying. Despite this, the audience participation bits are hysterical (including the elderly is always a treat) and the sheer amount of genuine enjoyment coming from the stage is undeniable. The in-jokes hit with surprising frequency, and the entire second act shines. The song that closes the show is a collection of Christmas carols that must be applauded.
Threshold Rep also deserves praise for offering up a different take on the usual Charleston holiday fare. They stumble out of the gate, but once the show gets its stride, there’s potential to show us something special.