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A VERY, VERY TRUMPY CHRISTMAS CAROL at Alleyway Cabaret is like an overlong SNL skit, but with no network censors to worry about.

THE BASICS:  A VERY, VERY TRUMPY CHRISTMAS CAROL, “redacted and directed” by Todd Warfield, starring Stephanie Bax, Timothy Patrick Finnegan, A. Peter Snodgrass and Guy Tomassi opened on December 7 and runs through December 23, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays (12/16 and 12/23 only) at 7 at Alleyway’s Main Street Cabaret, 672 Main Street (852-2600). Runtime: Just 50 minutes without intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Following closely the basic structure of Dicken’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL (coincidentally playing at the other end of the Alleyway complex), this adult-content send-up takes us to Christmas eve at The White House, where “Ebensneezer J. Trumpy” is visited by the spirit of “Hellary Clinton” (chained to her email and other “baggage” – literally) who warns him of three more nocturnal visitors, the spirits of Christmases past, present, and future.

Stephanie Bax as Hellary with her baggage. Credit Cheryl Gorski

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Years ago my older brother and I got into an argument over whose lasagna was better – his or mom’s. We compromised this way: his was better right out of the oven, but mom’s was better the next day.

I saw A VERY, VERY TRUMPY CHRISTMAS on opening night, right out of the oven, so to speak, and perhaps with a day to settle, it will be better. At my performance, the flavors hadn’t blended, and much of it was just a bit undercooked. This was more than opening night jitters. Which was too bad, because a lot of thought went into this production. The mind of Todd Warfield is a gift to Buffalo theater and #45 is a gift to all comedians, so we hope this show will improve with a little time.

As Candace Bergen recently told NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” audience, the only reason that she brought MURPHY BROWN back to television was that the wrong person won the 2016 election. To comedy writers everywhere the current occupant of The White House is a gift. Often just reporting the facts gives you comedy. In fact, some of the best laughs on opening night came from the rear stage projections of DJT’s tweets, shown verbatim on the screen, part of a skillful and entertaining video created by Todd Warfield which runs behind the actors.

One favorite sight-gag: superimposed in a ghostly fashion on a photo of the red trees lining the current White House hallway were the spooky twin girls from the movie “The Shining.” Genius!

One favorite sight-gag: superimposed in a ghostly fashion on a photo of the red trees lining the current White House hallway were the spooky twin girls from the movie ‘The Shining.’ Genius!

So, there are moments that you don’t want to miss, and I must admit that Guy Tomassi did a pretty credible job as Ebensneezer J. Trumpy. In fact, had he not been credited in the program, I would not have known it was he. With a wig, lots of orange makeup, and that perpetual scowl, he was most convincing.

Guy Tomassi as DJT, credit Cheryl Gorski

To be fair, Tomassi got to stay in one costume portraying one character throughout the show, so his “take” on Cheeto could grow on you. Unfortunately, the other three actors had to impersonate ten other well-known figures in rapid succession, which is a tough assignment. Even SNL, with their deep pool of New York talent, their extensive costume department, and their army of make-up artists doesn’t try that.

In sum, the concept is wonderful, but the execution is wanting. At least for now.

UP NEXT: BUFFALO QUICKIES, the 28th Annual One-Act Play Celebration directed by Joyce Stilson, suitable for adult audiences, it runs from April 11 through May 4, 2019, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.

Buffalo United Artists with which Todd Warfield is associated promises to have a show (to be announced) at The Alleyway in March, 2019.

Lead image: L-R Finnegan, Tomassi, Bax, Snodgrass. Photos credit Cheryl Gorski

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For 20 years, as program host on Classical 94.5 WNED and continuing on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?"

As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take." And, on “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM and Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?"

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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