Christmas on the Rocks – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Instead of a twist of lemon, TheaterWorks of Hartford is offering up, again, it’s highly entertaining vignettes of Christmas with a twist of mistletoe clearly in hand. Until Sunday, December 23, you are invited to toast the holiday with “Christmas on the Rocks,” a unique collection of vignettes that feature our favorite characters from childhood holidays.

Did you ever wonder what happened to Ralphie and his gigantic desire for a BB gun and the fate of his eye which his mom was sure he’d shoot out? Did you realize he really liked that pink bunny suit even though he protested wearing it? Aunt Clara really made a giant impact on Ralphie’s life. But it’s not just Ralphie that you’ll meet on this Christmas Eve. One by one, a series of our favorites will open the door of a bar run by Tom Bloom and tell their stories of what it means to be an adult in a strange world.

Conceived and directed by Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero, seven playwrights were invited six years ago to create a traditional (really untraditional) show for the theater to present each December. This year come hear the tales of John Carine, Jennifer Harris and Matthew Wilkas, Jeffrey Hatcher, Jacques Lamarre, Theresa Rebeck and Edwin Sanchez as they stretch their imaginations in clever and comic ways.

In “All Grown Up” by John Cariani, we are reintroduced to Ralphie Parker from “A Christmas Story” and discover he is still obsessed with the lady leg lamp his father won and his pink bunny suit, a gift from Aunt Clara. With a nod to “Its a Wonderful Life,” we meet ZuZu Bailey who is struggling to keep her rose alive while freaking out every time she hears a bell ring. It’s Bedford Falls all over again and angels are in danger of earning their wings, thanks to the wit and wisdom of Jacques Lamarre.

Jeffrey Hatcher’s humor focuses on an elf who feels he is a misfit and just wants to belong in “Say It Glows.” This particular helper of Santa’s doesn’t want to make toys: he’d much prefer to be a dentist. So open wide!

With a nod to Frostie and his magic black top hat, Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas present “My Name is KAREN!,” a rant by the young lady who built the snowman by hand and feels she has been forgotten and disrespected. Armed with a hair dryer, she is on the war path to get her deserved revenge.

A spiritual journey, “God Bless Us Every One,” is on Theresa Rebeck’s Christmas list. 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, focuses his talents on Clara who is now married to the Nutcracker, her personal and infuriating czar of love. With a hubby who is still flexible after all these years, Clara can’t abide the fact that her Nutcracker is still spry and is a master of infidelity.

Last but certainly not least, Jacques Lamarre is taking a second turn serving up “Merry Christmas, Blockhead.” 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, Jenn Harris and Randy Harrison play all Christmas characters to Tom Bloom’s sympathetic bartender. This clever foray into our favorite friends of the holiday is clearly a tradition at HTW for years to come.

For tickets ($10-70), call Hartford TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-526-7838 or online at Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.and 6:30 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.