Those traditional plays are so culturally ingrained that most of us know them — even if we haven’t seen them.
Maybe you’re looking for a more satirical take on holiday traditions. Instead of watching a “A Christmas Carol” for the 17th time, consider catching a twist on this classic in which a merry band of radio employees battle their stingy boss. Are you looking for something less traditional? Spend an evening reliving “The Golden Girls” with a hilarious all-male cast or watching a holiday-themed circus perform to the sounds of The Beatles’ “The White Album.”
Whether you love the classics, or are tired of their predictable plot lines, we’ve curated five non-traditional holiday shows for you to enjoy this December. Who knows, with the right mix of friends and family, theater might ignite one of the other great holiday traditions — arguing with your loved ones.
Grindhouse PDX at Funhouse Lounge, Nov. 12–Dec. 19
The annual Portland holiday favorite is back again, this time with a special new episode. The all-male cast from last year’s run return to the stage to portray Blanche, Rose and Dorthy from the classic 1980s sitcom. This year’s show features a reenactment of the “Golden Girls” Thanksgiving special “Turkey Lurkey,” as well as a Grindhouse PDX original Christmas special, “Miracle on Richmond St.”
Bag & Baggage Productions at the Venetian Theatre, Nov. 27–Dec. 13
For the past two years, Hillsboro’s favorite theater company has been pillorying Christmas plays with 1940s spoof radio shows, where everything that can possibly go wrong does: mobsters, dead sound effects guys, rum-soaked cakes, and pure, old-fashioned ineptness.
This year, the KBNB players return for one final go as their station is threatened by a greedy TV executive. You can anticipate the worst performance of “A Christmas Carol” ever, but in the most hilarious way. Make a night of it with dinner at the excellent Syun Izakaya sushi restaurant in the basement of the Hillsboro Library.
Portland Center Stage, Dec 2–27
“Santaland Diaries” is David Sedaris’s darkly funny tale of his Christmas spent playing Crumpet the Elf at Macy’s Santaland. NPR has aired his reading of this contemporary classic almost every year since 1992. If you can’t get enough of Sedaris’s caustic wit, then you’ll love actor Darius Pierce’s chagrined spin in Crumpet’s tights in Portland Center Stage’s annual production.
Portland Center Stage, Dec. 9–31
PCS mounts its third and final production of this Christmas satire by the famed Chicago improv company. The nimble cast of Second City alums and local actors devour a veritable smorgasbord of Christmas casualties, from reimagining the ending of “The Peanuts” Christmas special to asking what would happen if the Island of Misfit toys were adopted by Portland hipsters. The long list of cultural references will charm the adults and several openings for audience-suggested improv keep the show edgy enough for the always-bored teens.
Alberta Rose Theatre, Dec. 3–12
If Christmas shows are a thing of tradition, no tradition is as Portland as the “White Album Christmas.” Now in its eighth year, the seasonal spectacular involves the Nowhere Band playing the entire Beatles “White Album” while the members of Wanderlust Circus twist themselves into candy canes and spin from the ceiling like psychedelic sugar plum fairies. Want more circus? You can also catch Wanderlust’s take on Dickens in “A Circus Carol” with the band 3 Leg Torso (Dec. 18–20).