By: Megan Schuller
(left to right) A visit to Christmas past with Frank (Christea Parent), Henry (Shiv Mann), 1920s Joan Crawford (Alexa Castelvecchi) and Olive LaLake (Kristopher Bottrall) in the holiday comedy Christmas Dearest. Photo by Rick Aguilar Studios, courtesy of Hell in a Handbag Productions.
“Christmas Dearest” is a modern day twist on the Charles Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Story.” It is a holiday comedy told through the lens of Joan Crawford as “Scrooge,” who’s dressed as the virgin Mary with a martini in her hand, as hilarious adventures ensue. It is a Hell in a Handbag production directed by Steve Love, which is creatively crafted with the right mixture of humor and heartfelt moments.
It’s Christmas Eve and Crawford is playing Mary, mother of God, in an MGM biography called “Oh Mary.” Upon returning home she is visited by unanticipated ghosts who show her what her life once was, what it has become and what it could be if she doesn’t change her selfish ways.
Alexa Castelvecchi, sophomore CCPA student, plays Crawford as a young adult in the flashbacks as Crawford goes back in time to discover where she had a change of heart. Castelvecchi shines in moments where young Crawford’s character breaks into songs that are huge impact moments of the production. Young Crawford transitions from a small town girl into the rising Hollywood star that she became as her fame and greed grew. Castelvecchi carries the dynamic demands of young Joan’s character well.
Adult Crawford, played by David Cerda, was well performed and spot on. Portrayal of women played by men (trouser roles) were performed by several characters in the show and executed well. The chemistry between the performers was perfect to hit the right moments of parody and laughs.
There are interesting dynamics between characters that are sometimes unexpected in the show. While some of these moments are meant to be hilarious, others will tug on a heart string or two, but they still send the audience home laughing.
The production has been having a full house regularly. “Christmas Dearest” will be playing until Jan. 2 at Mary’s Attic.