Given the choice between attending a holiday play and nearly anything else—talking to strangers! oil change! moving!—I would almost ALWAYS choose the latter. It’s not that I have no holiday cheer: I’ve attended many a Nutcracker. David Sedaris and I are cool. There’s a strong chance I’m going to sob through the 1994 version of Little Women at least once this holiday season. I even kind of liked A Christmas Prince!
But holiday plays are tough. They must be as appealing to your mildly racist aunt as your four-year-old niece whose favorite things are trucks and crying because her dad won’t let her have his beer. Holiday shows are often overpriced, unoriginal, creaky repeat productions. We’d all be better off if theater companies didn’t feel obligated to put on these live equivalents of TV’s Extra-Special Holiday Episode. But if you absolutely have to go to a holiday play—if your drunk uncle needs entertainment, if your grandpa finds most movies to be ultraviolent monstrosities—I recommend Portland Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol.
Yes, A Christmas Carol.
I know: It’s corny as hell. It’s also hard to watch in this particular Upside Down moment, because it’s about a rude rich man who doesn’t care about anyone else learning his lesson and helping out the poor. Seeing it prompts uncomfortable questions, such as: “Would Tiny Tim be killed by the gutting of CHIP?” and “Is the debtors prison Scrooge speaks of so fondly where everyone with student loans is headed?” and “Do evil men change their ways outside of heartwarming Christmas stories?”
Wow! Okay, sorry. I’m trying to convince you to go. Here’s why you should: Tiny Tim is adorable! Charles Grant is very charismatic as the Ghost of Christmas Present! The ensemble tells a tired story effectively without resorting to splashy sets or jazz hands. Little kids are allowed to come and go as they please during the performance, a policy more theaters that allow children should consider. A Christmas Carol is more earnest than Portland Center Stage’s Twist Your Dickens, and not as dancing-candy-focused as The Nutcracker. And you can get popcorn and a beer and take it into the theater with you.
The holidays can be stressful, and going to the theater shouldn’t add to that stress. See this play. Ignore the rest. Or, you know, just rewatch A Christmas Prince. I do not judge.