If you consider your favorite Christmas characters, like Tiny Tim and Scrooge and Charlie Brown sacred, then the world premiere of "Christmas on the Rocks" may not be your cup of eggnog. But if you've ever wondered if Tiny Tim got to throw away his crutches or if Scrooge really had his hard heart melted in a vat of milk chocolate, then "Christmas on the Rocks" might be the perfect theatrical gift to give yourself.
Conceived and directed by Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero, Hartford TheaterWorks will be serving up a hearty and rum- laced cocktail, with a twist of mistletoe for garnish, until Sunday, December 22. You're invited to come and become reacquainted with your favorite holiday boys and girls who are now all grown-up.
How have they fared? Have the years been kind or cruel? Are there any surprises in their life plans? Ruggiero welcomed seven well-known playwrights to devote ten or fifteen minutes each to creating a sketch, a task that was harder for some than for others, but for all a success. He sets the scene in a bar on Christmas Eve.
In "All Grown Up" by John Cariani, who wrote the recent HTW's show "Almost, Maine" and will later unveil "Love/Sick" in May, 2014, we are reintroduced to Ralphie Parker from "A Christmas Story" and discover he is still obsessed with the lady leg lamp and his pink bunny suit. Jonathan Tolins who wrote the intriguing tale of Barbra Streisand's boutique basement in "Buyer and Cellar," will offer up "The Cane in the Corner" about the little doubting Sue from "Miracle on 34th Street," who is now a real estate broker and still unsure if Kris Kringle or Santa Claus really do exist.
If you saw "Mrs. Mannerly" at HTW recently, you already know the quality of Jeffrey Hatcher's humor. This time around he is focusing on an elf who feels he is a misfit and just wants to belong in "Say It Glows." Matthew Lombardo, whose shows "Looped" and "High" have been spotlighted in Hartford, is busy "Going Green" where Cindy Lou Who still hasn't quite recovered from her youthful encounter with that great green guy, the Grinch.
A spiritual journey, "God Bless Us Every One," is on Theresa Rebeck's Christmas list. She brought us such hits as "Bad Dates" and "The Understudy," Here we remeet Tiny Tim who is in the midst of a psychotic break and has serious issues with Mr. Scrooge. "Still Nuts About Him" by Edwin Sanchez, an international playwright of such works as "Trafficking in Broken Hearts" and "I'll Take Romance," focuses his talents on Clara who is now married to the Nutcracker, her personal and infuriating czar of love.
Last but certainly not least, Jacques Lamarre is serving up "Merry Christmas, Blockhead." Remember him for the uber-delightful "I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti." Now he is the psychiatrist/coach/love counselor for Charlie Brown and the little red haired girl of his youth.
A trio of talented actors, Harry Bouvy and Christine Pedi play all Christmas characters to Ronn Carroll's sympathetic bartender. This clever foray into our favorite friends of the holiday is sure to be a tradition at HTW for years to come.
For tickets ($35-50), call Hartford TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-526-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Come early and enjoy a viewing of the cartoon "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in the art gallery upstairs.
For a cynical, quirky and sentimental look at Christmases past, let "Christmas on the Rocks" serve you a flavorful cocktail of tasty potent potables.