Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Very Die Hard Christmas (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

This year Theatre Unleased has two of its very popular holiday productions in repertory, dubbed "Naughty" and "Nice."

"Naughty" (for language and violence mostly) is A Very Die Hard Christmas.  The premise is pretty simple.  Take the 1980s action blockbuster Die Hard (which did after all take place at Christmas time) then blend it with a variety of different beloved Christmas specials and movies--including Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and The Nightmare Before Christmas.   Add in some show tunes, plus plenty of jokes and behold one of the zaniest musicals you're ever likely to see!

The story basics are there for anyone who has seen the movie.  NY Detective John McClane (Wade F.Wilson) is on his way to spend Christmas with his estranged wife Holly (Kire Horton) and the daughter in Los Angeles.

For some strange reason Holly's employers are having their office Christmas Party on Christmas Eve, when a group of terrorists led by the West German but seemingly very English Hans Gruber (Josef Knauber) take over and want access to the super high tech vault.  McClane isn't expected and escapes into the unfinished floors of the skyscraper, starting an elaborate--and very, very, VERY violent game of cat and mouse.  No, really, I mean it.  By the curtain call McClane is dripping stage blood from all the fights.

This narrative is taken about as far as a theatrical venue and a really dark, absurd sense of humor will allow.  Musical numbers are the least of it.  So too the constant gags based on pop culture (usually but not always of the 80s).  An example of the latter is someone asking Gruber what "Hermione is really like" much to his rage.  But it gets more grotesque than that--up to and including deaths that are actually in slow motion.

Most of the cast--including Mark Lopez, Liesl Jackson, Robby De Villez, Lee Pollero, and Twon Pope actually play multiple roles.  One of them actually has to play three characters in one scene!  Meanwhile references to other Die Hard movies as well as bizarre little homages to Christmas abound.  One of the tenets of comedy is that everything isn't quite "real" (most of the time).  Everything is removed enough from reality we don't take what happens seriously but can wallow in the absurdity.  So a play in which an audience member is chosen to portray a character no one remembered to cast gives us a set up to laugh out load at someone being machine gunned to death.

Make that several people.  By a woman giving birth.  On Christmas.

Yeah, if you are easily offended don't go see this show.  I on the other hand laughed and laughed and laughed.  If you saw last year's production of the same musical--most of the cast is different and there've been other changes.  It is a different performance in many ways.

Enjoy!  I know I did.

A Very Die Hard Christmas plays Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8pm until December 18, 2016 at The Belfry Stage, upstairs at the Crown, 11031 Camarillo Street, North Hollywood CA 91602.

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