Drunk and Disorderly: Lushes Who are Loose Cut a Swath in The Loush Sisters DO The Nutcracker

As we all know, the holidays are a time for excess. It's a time to throw caution to the wind! Toss back that third butterscotch martini, have another heaping mound of the cornbread and sausage stuffing, and get into a heated argument with Uncle Max about whether President Obama is a Marxist-Muslim-atheist terrorist from Kenya.

Theater excesses also abound at this time of year, as some companies goose their financial coffers by dragging out well-worn shows from the past. But a slightly new addition this year is The Loush Sisters DO The Nutcracker, now at Cleveland Public Theatre.

This show isn't entirely fresh, since the tipsy (and easily tipped over) Loush gals have been around for some 10 years in different wrappings. This time, creators and directors Beth Wood, Liz Conway and Michael Seevers, Jr. combine the sister trio with a gaggle of six other Loush siblings to fashion a holiday family celebration as questionable as their fashion sense.

And talk about excess! This mélange of song bits, jokes and asides is gloriously unpretentious and determinedly over the top. You say the last five double entendres about holiday balls weren't so funny? Okay, here are three more. You say even one person speaking in falsetto puts your nerves on edge? Okay, here are a couple more, including the pianist (Vincent Ester) who unleashes a soaring, nuclear-tipped falsetto that could take out all the windows in the Trump Tower.

The show is Loushly based upon the family's treasured nutcracker doll, Carl, which comes to life at one point until it sneaks away from the oppressive attentions of the featured sisters, Holly and Jolly. After that, the game is on to try to reanimate the wooden doll, a little fellow who becomes a sort-of sex toy for the desperate and comically inebriated duo.

This glitzy Christmas fruitcake is loaded with silly gags and inappropriate references (in their telling, the Virgin Mary got "knocked up by God," butt sex doesn't count, and it's kinda nice to wake up covered in E-Z Glide). And it's all an excuse to sing some often fractured holiday songs along with a plethora of more current faves from rock to rap.

Conway as Jolly reprises a character she has done before, and once again keeps the audience in stitches. Her combination of singing while woozily weaving about the stage in a semi-drunken stupor always seems amusing and never, you know, funny-sad, a la Foster Brooks.

As her sister and drinking buddy Holly, Wood triggers a number of laughs with perfectly timed asides. When singing "O Holy Night," Wood winks naughtily at the line "...fall on your knees." Hey, it's that kind of show.

After intermission, Sheffia Randall Dooley appears as Butter Rum, the third sister, and proceeds to deliver a knockout rendition of "T'ain't Nobody's Business." Her deep and resonant voice is a welcome break, as is the Loush Family Christmas Pageant that adds some structure to the proceedings as they tell a demented version of Christ's birth.

The six Loush siblings keep swirling around but never land long enough to establish a character or develop their own comedy schtick. This is too bad since Dan Kilbane, Val Kozlenko, Amy Schwabauer, Dionne Atchison, Melissa Therese Crum and Ryan Edlinger all exhibit flashes of attitude (especially Kilbane's grinning and addled Lolly and Schwabauer's continually pissed-off Folly).

Sure, there's more crass japery than genuine wit here, and eventually one does long for a couple more songs to be sung in their entirety. But there is also one nice holiday gift: no audience participation (praise Jesus!), even with some inviting cabaret seating, with beer and wine service available, in front of the stage.

As long as you're fine with non-stop jokes about drinking and sex, it may well be time to let this show "slip through your fingers and explode in your face."

Through Dec. 21 at Cleveland Public

Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue,

216-631-2727, cptonline.org.

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Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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