Let's say, for the moment, that you're the Christ child. You are accustomed to being portrayed in solemn Nativity scenes, robust with ceremony. Then one December--this December--a group of actors in Dallas decides to tell your story in its own, slightly demented version of a "pastorela," the story of the birth of Christ that is performed all over Mexico during Christmas in a humble but often funny manner. These actors decide that the three shepherds making their way to Bethlehem to see you will be clowns (the Charlie Chaplin kind of clown, not circus clowns). They will speak mostly gibberish, with a real word thrown in here and there. And, oh yeah, there will be three devils who try to stop your shepherds from seeing you by tempting them with all seven of the deadly sins. In this production, you will be played by a baby doll, so you don't really have much of a say in the matter. Merry Christmas, baby Jesus! But David Lozano, the artistic director of Cara Mia Theatre Company, and Jeff Farrell, who co-wrote Nuestra Pastorela (Our Pastorela), have kept the humility of the traditional pastorela intact, even if it's a highly comic humility: The budget for the production basically covers gas money. The other day Lozano was busy driving to Fort Worth to pick up one of the largely nonprofessional actors in the production because she doesn't have a car. "We're using physical comedy to transpose the mundane into the theatrical," Farrell says. Nuestra Pastorela will be performed at the Latino Cultural Center, 2600 Live Oak St., at 8:15 p.m. December 9, December 10 and December 11; 3 p.m. December 12; 8:15 p.m. December 17 and December 18; and 3 p.m. December 19. Admission is $10 to $12. Reservations are encouraged. Call 214-946-9499. --Claiborne Smith
A Closer Look
Patsy Cline is a classic: Her voice is unmistakable, and her influence on country music is undeniable. But that influence hasn't reached all aspects of the genre. For example, the newest female country phenomenon is Gretchen Wilson, a self-described "Redneck Woman" who sings about drinking, partying and shopping at Wal-Mart. Not exactly classic--or classy. But history shan't be forgotten, as WaterTower Theatre pays tribute to the classic with A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline. The show runs through December 31 on the Main Stage of the Addison Theatre Center, 15650 Addison Road. Performances are Tuesdays (December 21 only), Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 to $35. New Year's Eve tickets are $65. Call 972-450-6232. --Rhonda Reinhart
I used to think the Trans-Siberian Orchestra was just new age holiday schlock for Yanni fans. Then somebody informed me that the members of the orchestra are the same guys from the heavy metal group Savatage. I didn't believe her, so I compared the two bands' Web sites, and sure enough the names Paul O'Neill, Robert Kinkel and Jon Oliva show up on both bands' rosters. Turns out the TSO is doing so well that O'Neill and Kinkel left Savatage to spend more time crafting bombastic Christmas albums. The schlocky new age orchestra for heavy metal fans performs Friday at 8 p.m. at the American Airlines Center. Tickets are $29.50 to $49.50 from Ticketmaster at 214-373-8000. --Jay Webb
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There have been many great men over the course of American history, yet none may have taught as much about the quest to triumph over adversity as Charlie Brown, everyone's favorite "wishy-washy" worry wart. Terry Dobson chronicles the events in a day-in-the-life of good ol' Chuck in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, a musical by Clark Gesner based on the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz, at Theatre Three. Winner of two Tony Awards, the musical will be performed at the theater located at 2800 Routh St. in the Quadrangle on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through January 15. Tickets are $15 to $35 except performances on January 9 at 7:30 p.m. and December 13 at 2 p.m., which are $10. Call 214-871-3300 or visit www.theatre3dallas.com. --Danna Berger
While "man's inhumanity to man" was a popular theme in lit class, no one really talked about woman's inhumanity to woman. But that's OK, because we lived it--the gossiping, the backbiting, the Mean Girls cliquishness--and we weren't always on the receiving end. So, stories such as Carolyn Gage's The Anastasia Trials in the Court of Women ring surprisingly true. This play-within-a-play examines a feminist theater group that, while dealing with actresses' infighting, stages a show centered on a mock trial of Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov vs. the women who betrayed her. We firmly believe that Anastasia died in a basement 86 years ago, but at least the play allows the audience to participate as the jury that decides the fate of the alleged traitors. Echo Theatre presents a performance reading of The Anastasia Trials on December 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Admission is free. Call 214-904-0500. --Michelle Martinez