By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Like those little unexpected goodies stuffed in a Christmas stocking, Christmas at Ground Zero is full of small, tasty surprises. Yule Pay for That by Robert Meyers-Morgan, directed by Matt Tomlanovich, features Sean Perez and Brian Witkowicz as unscrupulous ad men determined to rid the world of Santa, a character who can't be copyrighted or profited from. In Santa's place they install "Blizzarre," a violent comic-book superhero who makes the red-suited fat man look like "a giant, mutant, power-crazed Insanity Claus." As a comment on media manipulation, this plot's not so far-fetched. Our collective image of Old St. Nick came from illustrations on Coca-Cola ads.
Think Tanks by Isabella Russell-Ides, also directed by Tomlanovich, finds two bubbas drinkin' and spittin' as they try to sort out the state of the world. "If there never was a Jesus," muses Dwayne (John Hammers), "we wouldn't be fightin' these A-rabs!" Dwayne considers mayonnaise a "gourmet food." He and Darrell (Witkowicz) suspect that Disney is behind the unrest in the Middle East. It's a funny little script, even if the characters do say "Woo doggies."
James Venhaus provides the two funniest plays in this year's collection. Directed by Wm. Paul Williams, Santa's Little Helper stars the delectable Andra Laine as the office wench, spicing up the back room at a company Christmas party. But what she provides her male suitors is more gift from the heart than of the flesh. Venhaus' writing here is sharp and tight, managing to get across loads of subtext in just a few pages. Laine goes solo in Venhaus' Happy Holidays From Anderson, Davis, Seton & Fenner, playing a phone-crazed receptionist trying to get away on the eve of Christmas Eve. Tangled in the headset, half in, half out of an elf suit, sobbing in comic frustration, Laine is as loony and lovable as Lucy.
Brendan Ahern, Kelli Elandis, Rasa Hollender and Duane Jones are the perpetrators of Flocked. Jones is hi-dang-larious as a half-drunk redneck trying to call for help from under a "tannenbaum of terror." Hollender is "Patty the Witness," the super-Christian offending everyone with her over-the-top office nativity display. Hollender also narrates A Christmas Carol performed by "Raw Meat Theater." Scrooge is a huge raw turkey. The choir is a pack of weenies. Tiny Tim is a can of Starkist, just as he should be.
This is comedy bizarre, sometimes frightening, mostly really, really funny. PUNCH DRUnK may not have the Christmas spirit, but they do have Christmas balls.