A number of jarring tonal shifts and some underdeveloped characters don’t stop Merry F***in’ Christmas Y’All, the latest from Eclectic Company Theatre, from being a laugh-getter for those who don’t mind more than a bit of raunch in their holiday entertainment.

Playwright Marnie Olson stars as closeted heroine Mia, who’s brought girlfriend Alana (Erin Treanor) along with her to this year’s dreaded family reunion with her Texas trailer trash brothers and their prim and proper mom at “a cabin somewhere in Colorado.”

MFCY-041 20somethings Gunnar (Daniel Pittack) and Curtis (Julian Vlcan) may be adults in a chronological sense, but neither seems more than an overgrown child. As for Liam (Mike Goulis), brother number three may well be in a committed relationship, but it’s with onetime “Rodeo Queen” Rhiannon (Ivy Jones), three times his age and prone to bawdy one-liners like “Santa Baby coming down my chimney tonight.”

No wonder the relatively normal Mia feels like a fish out of water amongst such redneck siblings. Add to that a crippling fear of coming out to her Nancy Reaganesque mother Lucie (Dianne Travis) and you’ve got the recipe for an uncomfortable Christmas celebration, particularly since Mia’s long-term relationship with Alana is not the only secret she’d like to reveal if only she could summon up the courage.

Completing the mix is Rachel (Caroline Marshall), a hot mess of a bimbo picked up by “Goldfinger” Gunnar at the local watering hole … who turns out to be none other than Mia’s “faux-mosexual” ex.

MFCY-471 Under Kerr Lordygan’s direction, Olson’s cast of characters inspire considerable R-rated laughter throughout Merry F***in’ Christmas Y’All’s intermissionless ninety or so minutes. (When a clueless Lucie worries that Mia might become “a crazy old cat lady” if she doesn’t find a boyfriend soon, Gunnar comes back with the obvious punch line, “Well, she does like pussy.”)

Pittack and Vlcan do the best they can with their underwritten characters. Goulis fares better, perhaps because his May-December relationship is more fully developed. Travis works hard to give Lucie three dimensions, but it’s never quite clear who exactly this woman is, Texas grand dame or Lone Star Sarah Palin. Marshall makes Rachel an entertaining bisexual train wreck. (You’d like to look away but somehow you can’t.)

MFCY-225 Merry F***in’ Christmas Y’All’s brightest, most unexpected surprise turns out to be Jones’s scene-stealing turn as Rhiannon. Last seen to heartbreaking effect as Alzheimer’s victim Sylvia in Lordygan’s Askance, Jones now proves herself one humdinger of a comedienne, taking a character that in less accomplished hands might end up nothing more than the octogenarian butt of horny old lady jokes and giving her depth, and heart, and soul.

52a3db97687f2-merry-f-christmas-y-all-1 Amidst all these wild-and-crazy characters and vulgar shenanigans, Olson’s Mia seems to have wandered in from an alternate dramatic universe, and were everyone else in Merry F***in’ Christmas Y’All not playing it for broad laughs, her performance would merit raves. Opposite Olson, Treanor isn’t given much to do as Alana, but what she does she does quite well.

The production’s uncredited scenic designer has created a nicely appointed rustic winter retreat, professionally lit by lighting and sound designer Joshua Silva. Marshall and Treanor are co-producers.

Olson has a hard time figuring out just how to bring Merry F***in’ Christmas Y’All’s holiday pandemonium to a close, a pair of seemingly climactic blackouts turning out to be not so climactic after all, and when the evening does end, it’s with a somewhat awkward mix of the heartwarming and the crude.

Fortunately, Olson, Lordygan, and company have given us enough dysfunctional family Christmas laughs along the way to make Merry F***in’ Christmas Y’All at the very least worth a look-see at the tail end of this holiday season.

The Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village.

–Steven Stanley
December 22, 2013
Photos: David Nott

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