Comes now relief from the plethora of goopy Christmas-ness. Stray Dog Theatre is giving us "The Butterfingers Angel, Mary & Joseph, Herod the Nut, and the Slaughter of 12 Hit Carols In a Pear Tree". It's hard to believe that this goofy semi-satirical piece of work came from William Gibson, the man who wrote "The Miracle Worker". It's a re-telling of the Christmas narrative that throws in the question of reality just to crank things up a notch.
For the food folks out there, "Butterfingers" does not refer to the candy bar. The angel Gabriel, Joseph Corey Henke, resembling a grown Macauley Culkin of the "Home Alone" year, carries a notebook with his assignment of shepherding (ahem) things along from annunciation to flight, and he keeps dropping it. Coleen M. Backer's Mary, a young woman who wants to go off to the big city, not get pregnant, is a delight, mouthy, large and in charge. (Kudos, too, to costume designer Alexandra Scibetta Quigley for the Jacqueline Kennedy-esque coat for the trek to Bethlehem.) And didn't you always wonder about what Joseph really thought about this little surprise? Played by Stephen Peirick, he's the most real character of them all.
John Reidy carries three roles, and it's hard to say whether the fellow in a darkish suit or King Herod is more fun to watch. The suit guy is hypnotizingly smooth, and Herod seems to have been the role model for a Monty Python character. Plus we have a tree with a fur coat, assorted animals including the long-suffering donkey and a band of brothers, all working hard to ramp up the mania.
The evening is not without problems. The script wanders from time to time. And while the singing is mostly quite good in terms of melody, the lyrics often get lost in their enunciation. To judge from the opening number, which begins in the back of the theater, any lyrics that are parodies deserve to get attention. But in a theater season that's given us a dialogue between Freud and C.S. Lewis, this play, which could have been titled, "Are you there, God? It's me, Gabriel." fits right in.
On Saturday nights, December 14 and 21, Mamma Josephine's restaurant is teaming with Stray Dog to offer a buffet dinner at the theater before the 8 p.m. performance. It's $25 on top of the ticket price.
The Butterfingers Angel, Mary & Joseph, Herod the Nut, and the Slaughter of 12 Hit Carols In a Pear Tree
Stray Dog Theatre
Tower Grove Abbey