A Telenovela Christmas Carol
Review by Neal Weaver
Through December 18
Ebenezer Scrooge becomes miserly tequila manufacturer Pedro Azucar in this Mexican-American variation on Charles Dickens’ durable (and sometimes inescapable) Christmas classic. The script is by Adam Neubauer and Sebastian Munoz, who directs the piece and also plays Pedro with exuberant and deliberate hamminess.
The plot follows the broad outlines of Dickens’ original, with the visits of the three ghosts, Christmas Past, Present, and Future. But the play’s also been cast in the form of a melodramatic telenovela, with plenty of fresh characters and plot twists.
Pedro, unlike Scrooge, has a large family, including a son (Neubauer) who takes the place of Bob Cratchit, and a wife who died under mysterious circumstances. And then there’s the mysterious Fantomima Azucar (Leah Wasylik) who makes ardent passes at Pedro. Jacob Marley is transformed into Francisco Lajarra (Brian Felsen), who is not dead, but is now Pedro’s archrival and head of another clan. And there are several thwarted romances between the various Azucars and Lajarros, which can’t be resolved till the spirits have successfully reformed Pedro.
Munoz’s Pedro is a larger-than-life figure and a stereotypical comic Latino character. The production, though clearly crowd-pleasing, tends toward the harum-scarum and catch-as-catch- can. In one of the ensemble numbers, there’s some clever choreography, but at other times large crowds of actors seem to have been brought on with no clear notion of why they’re there, or what they’re supposed to do.
Both the writing and the staging are sometimes amusing and sometimes merely anarchic-chaotic. There are frequent references to other Christmas classics, including The Wizard of Oz. Program notes would have been helpful to those of us with little experience of telenovelas.
Force of Nature Productions at Archway Studio/Theatre, 10509 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m. (818) 980-7529 or www.archwayla.com. Running time: 65 minutes with no intermission.