Salt Lake City’s Off Broadway Theatre is at its best when doing its own material. You can’t blame them for trying things like “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” but the fact is, their own blend of satire and improvisation works better for them than even Shakespeare does.
“The X-Mas Files” is OBT at its finest. It has clever parody, fantastic sight gags and stage tricks, and actors who aren’t afraid to screw up their lines and improvise something better (or worse, which is often funnier).
Written by Bob Bedore, “X-Mas Files” is a parody of “The X-Files,” first and foremost, and a highly accurate one, at that. Non-fans of the show will miss a lot of jokes here, especially a delicious one where the two heroes almost kiss but are stopped in a manner similar to what happened in last year’s movie.
The plot has Smolder (Bob Bedore) in search of his long-lost sister, who was abducted by Santa Claus as a child. The problem, of course, is that most people don’t believe in Santa — especially his no-nonsense partner, Scullery (Laura Bedore; played by understudy Alexis Owen the night of this review).
Santa exists, of course; it was his sleigh, not a UFO, that crashed at Roswell in the 1940s, and the government’s been hiding it, led by Cancer Man (Zac Zumbrunnen), who now wants to use his Santa/android hybrids to make Christmas last all year long, thus ruining its magic.
“X-Files” fans are already laughing at the parallels here, but the parody doesn’t stop at “X-Files.” There are also some excellent spoofs of “Star Wars” (including a Darth Maul-like character played admirably by Robert Bogue), “Soylent Green,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and of course “A Christmas Carol” (note the already-obvious comparisons between Cancer Man and Scrooge).
Eric Jensen, easily OBT’s funniest actor, plays four parts here, each of which is hysterical. He’s Mr. Kruger (who’s really a mix of several Jimmy Stewart roles), a fey mannequin who gives Smolder and Scullery a hand, a department store Santa who turns out to be a robot (which leads to a GREAT scene in which Santa’s decapitated head speaks to Scullery), and Elfis — an elf who resembles the King in yet another wonderful sight gag.
But OBT regulars Bob Bedore, Robert Bogue, Mark Harris and Zac Zumbrunnen also add quite a bit, particularly when they ad-lib. This is sometimes because they can’t remember the right line, but they also seem to enjoy doing it just for fun. Seeing actors break each other up on stage is always a treat.
To top it off, at least two song parodies — “The Cancer Man” (to the tune of “The Candy Man”) and “Take a Walk on the Dark Side” (Lou Reed’s “Take a Walk on the Wild Side”) — are absurdly funny.
Problems? Yeah, sure, there are some. The show feels a little long, due partly to the cast’s screwing around, but mostly due to a script that isn’t sure when to quit. And those two good song parodies are the exceptions: The rest are kinda lame.
But this is a solid show nonetheless, especially for “X-Files” fans. Even non-fans, though, will appreciate the show’s sense of lunacy and sheer goofiness. These folks know comedy, especially when they wrote it themselves.
This was the first show since the previous year's spectacular "Dracula vs. the Wolfman" that was a success for OBT. The ones in between tended toward the lackluster and amateurish, while these two parodies were amost brilliant.