Christmas in Cudrup

Counteracting yuletide treacle with comedy noir.

The first thing to understand about this "action adventure serial for the stage" is that it starts at 11 p.m. The reason you don't see Cats or The Odd Couple or, say, Camino Real starting an hour before midnight is that these eminent productions want to be taken seriously, and to be taken seriously, one has to be on one's toes. Sober, that is. A Very Special Money & Run Winter Season Holiday Special (through Saturday, Dec. 10, at Theater Schmeater; 206-325-6500, www.schmeater.org) has no such pretensions to dramatic heft. This show, written by Wayne S. Rawley and directed by James Venturini, only wants you to have fun. It more than hits its mark.

Money (Peggy Gannon) and Run (Alex Samuels), last seen a couple months back at Schmeater in Juke Box Mama!, are a pair of swaggering, bighearted criminals in the tradition of Bonnie and Clyde. Rather than traversing the country on a crime spree, Money and Run are regular patrons of Cudrup County's Down n Out n In n Out Inn, a sort of halfway house and holding pen for the county's carnival cast of grotesques. In this chapter, Rawley, whose comedy chops are tip-top, folds crime noir elements into the treacly Christmas-special template, circa 1970, to create a Frankenstein's monster of a comedy revue. Imagine James Ellroy penning an episode of Laugh-In directed by Quentin Tarantino, and you're pretty close to the appeal of this production. Venturini and an excellent cast juggle a mountain of jokes and pop culture references to create an endearingly weird and infinitely enjoyable show, complete with a mad scientist, a wonderful slow-motion fight sequence, and a "technically" virgin birth on Christmas Eve.

Samuels and Gannon—he with his eye patch and she in her half-shirt and tight jeans—are the perfect blend of sweet and tough, a pair of half-baked antiheroes with hearts of spun sugar. Shannon Kipp is wonderful as Big Momma Bob, the liquor store proprietress who "sells corn whiskey to kindergartners." Also sharp are Craig Bradshaw as Dr. Asswagon (pronounced "Ahs-weegan"), Josh Hartvigson as O.T. and the Innkeeper, and Tim Moore as both the Narrator and dim-witted goon Merv.

This show, which ends on a surprisingly touching note, is the perfect antidote to the impending overload of yuletide schmaltz and tinhorn consumerism, as the season of giving descends on us once again. Its comedy works like a tonic.

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