ex news 

Text of article from the Daily Herald
December 3, 2010

"Vex Theatre show puts new spin on holiday classics"

By Jamie Greco

“A Christmas Carol” is one of the few stories which never seems to grow old.

Maybe that's why so many have re-imagined the tale over the years; most everyone knows it backward and forward.

As part of an evening of holiday entertainment called “Twist-A-Carol,” “A Turn of the Scrooge” is a one-act play written by Vex Theatre founders Cathleen Ann and Rich Geiger, imagining the old yarn backward.

“It's a reverse of ‘A Christmas Carol,'” Ann said. “Scrooge starts out happy, where we left him at the end of the Dickens story. He's then visited by three spirits of the modern holidays: The Spirit of Holiday Insincerity, The Spirit of Holiday Obligation and The Spirit of Holiday Excess.”

The unfortunate miser of “The Turn of the Scrooge” discovers that his original evaluation of Christmas was correct. “It shows him that now, holidays can be ‘humbug' in a different way.” Ann said.

Geiger, who is also the director of the piece, feels it makes a point with which many would agree.

“It came out of the way Christmas is celebrated now,” he said. “I feel like we kind of miss the point. The holiday should be about family and getting together and celebrating the passing of the year and it's become so commercial.”

“So we were thinking about modern Christmas and the stress we put ourselves under,” Geiger said. “And we thought Scrooge is the most famous Christmas story and he really gets it in the end.”

Neither writer is concerned with the glut of interpretations of the old tale.

“I think that we like the idea of taking some holiday material that people feel obligated to watch once a season and give them a fresh twist on it,” Ann said.

“A Turn of the Scrooge” is just one segment of the evening's entertainment.

“‘Twist-a-Carol' is more of a holiday revue,” Ann said. “Several short funny pieces that look at the holidays from a different point of view and we interspersed it with some really great singers.”

Holiday songs will be performed throughout the evening, directed by Peter Rassey of Chicago, accompanied by pianist Richard Trost.

Two more short plays will be presented during “Twist-a-Carol”: “Marley's Ghost” by Don Nigro and “A Christmas Classic” by Christopher Bibby of Hoffman Estates.

“‘Marley's Ghost' is a more serious work … and kind of a pathos story and the other is kind of a mashup,” said Cheryl Rice, who plays The Spirit of Excess in “A Turn of the Scrooge.”

The Vex Theatre Company was founded in 2004 in Chicago, moved to Palatine and currently calls Elgin home. “Elgin is very welcoming to the arts, so since 2008 we've been in Elgin, specifically the (Elgin) Art Showcase,” Ann said.

“It's a very flexible, small, intimate space; it's just perfect for our needs.”

Rice agrees. “I love working at the (Elgin Art Showcase),” she said. “It's a great venue. It's so beautifully configurable, the acoustics are cool, it's a beautiful room.

“This is one of the nicest spaces for a nontraditional theater. I like the small venue where you're closer to the audience. You can be subtler with your work.”

The review takes place during Elgin's Home for the Holidays weekend, which is the city's celebration of the season, highlighted by the lighting of the city tree and downtown window displays.

“We're sponsored by the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission and they wanted something to happen at the Showcase, some sort of art event, so they asked if we were interested,” Geiger said.

The Elgin Community Crisis Center women's shelter will receive $1 for every ticket sold, according to Geiger.

“They will have a concession stand in order to raise money for their organization,” Geiger said. “We thought we should help someone while we're having fun.”

Although there is nothing that should prove offensive in the material, the show isn't for the younger set.

“The themes we discuss would probably be over the head of little kids. We're just cautioning it would be best enjoyed by preteens to adults,” Ann said.

“Like that commercial,” Rice said. “This is not your father's ‘Christmas Carol.' It's not ‘It's a Wonderful Life.' I think people should come … see something that's nontraditional.”