Christmas on the Rocks – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Santa’s favorite characters from your childhood come to comical life, now all grown up and set in their ways, as TheaterWorks Hartford’s enduringly charming ”Christmas on the Rocks” flies into town until Saturday, December 23. You can do nothing better to prepare for a jolly holiday season then to fill your stocking with a bevy of original tales the likes of Ralphie of b.b.gun fame, Clara of the dynamic nutcracker phobia, Karen who has an extreme problem with Frosty the Snowman and Charlie Brown who is still pining for the little red headed girl from his school days.

More than a decade ago, Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero conceived the idea of inviting seven playwrights who had their works performed at TWH to write a scenario about a favorite Christmas character and it is now a seasonal classic,
this year starring Richard Kline as the jovial and accommodating proprietor of a bar on Christmas Eve, who is visited not by Scrooge’s trio of ghosts but by Jen Cody and Harry Bouvy as your old holiday childhood friends.

Have you ever cared how Hermie the Elf and Rudolph have fared?Have the years been kind or cruel? Are there any surprises in their life plans? Come meet Midge, Barbie’s BFF, who is coping with multiple issues due to her most popular friend and her questionable role in her life. Now quite pregnant and alone, Midge, the creation of Edwin Sanchez and Jacques Lamarre, is uncertain whether all about the cartoon girl Karen who enters the bar with a hair dryer and takes full credit for creating Frosty the Snowman and equally gleeful credit for his demise. The police are at the door and her arrest may be imminent.

To experience the quality of Jeffrey Hatcher’s humor, come meet an elf who feels he is a misfit and just wants to belong in “Say It Glows.” Hermie wants to be a dentist and perform root canals, not be stuck in Santa’s workshop making toys. He clearly has a thing about Rudolph and his shiny nose and may just be heading for a breakdown over guilty deeds. What child’s home doesn’t have that adorable Elf on the Shelf, this one named “Snitch” by Jenn Harris. How would you like to be relocated every night in impossible places and have no say about where or why. Apparently Snitch wants to sue Santa and take back his rights.

Judy Gold and Jacques Lamarre offer up a twist with the tale of “Drumsticks and Chill” as a beat of Chanukah enters the saloon.

“Still Nuts About Him” by Edwin Sanchez focuses his talents on Clara, the ballerina, who is now married to the Nutcracker, her personal and infuriating czar of love. She fears he is cheating on her and uses her toy nutcracker to annihilate all the bar nuts in the tavern.

Last but certainly not least, Jacques Lamarre is serving up “Merry Christmas, Blockhead.” Here he is the psychiatrist/coach/love counselor for Charlie Brown and the little red haired girl of his youth. Good grief, the evening ends on a sweet and sentimental note. Director Rob Ruggiero keeps the insanity and laughs rolling merrily along, on an intoxicating set designed by Michael Schweikardt, inspired costumes by Alejo Vietti and clever lighting by John Lasiter.

For tickets ($35-60), call Hartford TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 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. Before or after the show, treat yourself to a cup of Mezzie’s ice cream. I personally recommend the Heath Bar Crunch that a kind theater patron insisted on treating me to.

For a cynical, quirky and sentimental look at Christmases past, let “Christmas on the Rocks” serve you a flavorful cocktail of tasty potent potables. Happy Holidays!