Imagine a bunch of East L.A. or Boyle Heights vecinos getting together to put on a Christmas show for friends and family and what you’ve got is A Telenovela Christmas Carol, Force Of Nature Productions’ unpolished but entertaining adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic Mexican soap opera-style.
Ebenezer Scrooge is now Pedro Azúcar (director/co-writer Sebastian Muñoz), the angry, drunken, penny-pinching proprietor of Mexico’s premier tequila distillery Tequilería Azúcar, whose overworked and underpaid Bob Cratchit is now Pedro’s own son Gerardo (co-writer Adam Neubauer).
Like Scrooge before him, Pedro has no espirito de Navidad in him, not since he pushed his wife Jacoba (Jennifer Novak Chun) off a cliff, which is why Gerardo is no luckier than Bob in taking Christmas Eve off.
Busty Sheriff Boob (Bianca Flores) and twink deputy Sergio Roma (Adam Shows) come by for donations to the Christmas Charity Drive but like Scrooge’s charity workers before them, the twosome leave empty-handed and so does Chickets Girl (Mona Park), who tries to sell Pedro chewing gum but gets told to eat them herself.
Pedro’s uninvited guests begin with his murdered wife, who following a failed attempt at hanky-panky (“Sex with a ghost is amazing,” she tells him but to no avail), announces the impending arrival some equally unwelcome visitors.
Ghost Numero Uno (Nicole Craig) reminds Pedro of the day his beloved sister Fantomima (Leah Wasylik) introduced him to tequila, prompting Pedro’s vow to make the finest tequila the world has ever known; of the plans he and his friend, winery scion Francisco (Brian Felsen) made to join forces and take over the wine and tequila worlds together; and finally of the news that Fantomima has succumbed to typhus. (Can you say bummer en espanol?)
Ghost Numero Dos (Anne Westcott) arrives “in the image of Martha Luciana” (whoever that may be) and once she’s gotten Pedro to “touch it” (her robe that is), the duo visit the Cheers bar (“where everybody knows your name”). No, seriously, they’re actually at Pedro’s tequilería where poor Gerardo informs his sister Josefina (Jessica Weiner) and her hairy-chested boyfriend Pancho (Shows) that he’s too busy to go out and meet up with his amigo Mike (Gloria Galvan), forced to use a crutch Tiny Tim-style since “the accident.”
Last to arrive is the Ghost Of Christmas Future (Neubauer). who informs Pedro of a futuro no brighter than Scrooge’s, though like Ebenezer before him, Pedro eventually learns to love Christmas (and orders the two biggest turkeys in town, no matter that it’s too late for all but the scrawniest still on the shelves).
A Telenovela Christmas Carol is filled with corny humor, Spanish accents attempted with varying degrees of success, and hand claps standing in hilariously for slaps.
Muñoz delivers the evening’s most professional performance, his supporting cast’s entusiasmo going a good ways towards making up for any lack of stage experiencia. (Redetha Deason completes the cast as Margarita.)
Scenic designers Deason, Muñoz, and stage manager/technical director Melissa Muñoz give A Telenovela Christmas Carol a colorful south-of-the-border look. Chun, Deason, Felsen, Flores, and Shows provide pre-show musical entertainment as the Cinco Trio Loco.
The Archway Studio/Theatre, 10509 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood.
December 4, 2016