Theater Review: "Christmas on the Rocks" Brings Beloved Holiday Characters Together to Commiserate at the Bar 

click to enlarge A grown-up Ralphie (David Clark) from “A Christmas Story” has finally shot his eye out and is updating his bartender Mac (played by Jay O. Millman) in “Christmas on the Rocks.”

John Macllelan

A grown-up Ralphie (David Clark) from “A Christmas Story” has finally shot his eye out and is updating his bartender Mac (played by Jay O. Millman) in “Christmas on the Rocks.”

As every Richmond theatergoer knows, it’s that special time of year. The sets are up, the cast is in place. Everything is ready for another season of saccharine-sweet holiday offerings.

But not so with Richmond Triangle Players’ production of “Christmas on the Rocks.”

Taking place on Christmas Eve at “a local bar in a lonely corner of the cosmos,” this comedy envisions what happened to the protagonists of favorite holiday movies after they grew up. In scene after scene, they explain how their lives fell apart after the events portrayed in the film. While the premise sounds intriguing, in action you get the feeling it might have worked better as a sketch on “Saturday Night Live.”

“A Christmas Story,” “Miracle on 34th Street” — basically every great Christmas film except “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Die Hard” — is sent up in the show, though it generates little mirth in doing so.

On David Allan Ballas’ realistic pub set, Jay O. Millman anchors the show as the bartender who’s seen it all. While David Clark and Kimberly Jones Clark enter the bar as a band of zany characters, Millman does good work as the straight man.

The best moments come from Kimberly Jones Clark, particularly her roles as a skanky Cindy Lou Who from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and a drunken Clara from “The Nutcracker.” When playing up Cindy Lou’s sleaziness or Clara’s frustrated sexuality through dance, she channels the zany energy of the late Madeline Kahn.

David Clark fares well enough as a depressed Ralphie who’s finally lost an eye to gunfire, and Hermey the elf from the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” television special, but there’s little to be done with the depressive parts written for him.

That’s the biggest obstacle of the show: overcoming a script that ends up being more cynical than funny. While many of the targets chosen from the classic childhood films are ripe for skewering, there doesn’t seem to be a purpose behind the script’s heavy-handed satiric bite.

Some portions — such as Hermey’s jokes about Yukon Cornelius and his desire to become a dentist — end up being too specific if you haven’t seen the stop-motion classic since you were a kid. And while the character did have a Christmas special, the inclusion of Charlie Brown feels like an afterthought, referring to nothing from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Perhaps I’m overanalyzing a show that wasn’t intended for such examination, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy myself. It may not be fully inspired, but under Dexter Ramey’s direction, “Christmas on the Rocks” ends up being a pleasing affair. S

“Christmas on the Rocks” plays through Dec. 19 at Richmond Triangle Players, 1300 Altamont Ave. Call 346-8113 or visit rtriangle.org.

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