When Hammond High Grad/Playwright David Cerda focuses his attention on Hollywood legend Joan Crawford, there's always something funny that unfolds.
His latest stage antics are neatly wrapped-up like a gift waiting to be be opened under a glittering tree at Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. in Chicago, with remaining performances this weekend and extended until Jan. 5.
His new clever and laughing and loving tribute to Miss Crawford is called "Christmas Dearest" and it tells the tale of the Hollywood superstar and the important lessons she learns one Christmas Eve a la Ebenezer Scrooge.
Here's Cerda set-up for this fun send-up: "T'was the night before Christmas and MGM's biggest star, Joan Crawford, is playing the title role in "Oh Mary," a splashy new musical biopic about Mary and the biblical journey of the first Christmas for the birth of the Savior. But Joan, as played to full-throttle camp by Cerda is insisting of rewrite after rewrite as she barks her orders to all. And her Life away from the camera lens is just as exasperating, as Joan's trusty assistant, Carol Ann, played by the always funny Ed Jones, wants Christmas day off to be with her family (portrayed by a lot of silly, felt puppets), especially her sickly daughter Teey Teena played by rubbery all-star Alex Grelle. According to Joan, each way she turns somebody is looking for a handout for one charity or another. Then there's Christina, her demanding adopted daughter (at least in Joan's mind) who seems to be the only one who can match her mother's demanding ways.
"Christmas Dearest" is Cerda's Hell in a Handbag Production's not-to-be-missed twist on Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" as told by Handbag's Artistic Director Cerda is and wonderfully directed by AJ Wright. Cerda, who is also the author of his spoofy smash of previous years "Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer," Handbag's long running-holiday 15 years classic, has given audiences a perfect gift with his new Joan Crawford parody.
Other Handbag ensemble member in the cast include Steve Love, Michael J. Hampton and Sydney Genco and returning to Handbag are Katherine Glavin, Jamie Smith and Michael John Lea. Newcomers to Hell in a Handbag include Chicago theater veteran Jeremy Trager, who gives it his all as an angry younger Joan when face-to-face with her ever-enemy: a wire hanger. Christopher Lewis, Grant Drager and Caitlin Jackson also add to the farcical funny romp.
Tickets are $15- $25 with special VIP reserved packages starting at $35. FYI: (800)838-3006 or Brown Paper Tickets online at brownpapertickets.com/event/455598
Note: The winners of the "Salute to Vienna" contest will be announced in Sunday's Offbeat.