On Stage

This week in theater

Great Lakes Theater:

Ghosts of Christmas Past

When Gerald Freedman's evergreen adaptation of A Christmas Carol returns this Friday to Great Lakes Theater, it will mark the 23rd year the Dickens classic has graced the Cleveland stage. In that time, theater sources say, the show has spread holiday cheer to more than 570,000 playgoers and become one of Northeast Ohio's best-attended holiday attractions. Freedman, a former GLT artistic director, took the bold step of recasting Dickens' story as a play within a play way back in 1988. In his version, the action opens with the fictitious Cleaveland family gathered in its Victorian parlor on Christmas Eve. As the missus reads Mr. Dickens' book to her brood, her youngest reimagines the story's characters as figures from his own life: Father becomes Bob Cratchit, little William becomes Tiny Tim, and the crotchety old servant becomes the pivotal Mr. Scrooge. Besides its gentle tinkering with the plot, you can count on GLT to pull out all stops on special effects, including a scary, amped-up version of Marley's ghost and a jaw-dropping appearance by the Ghost of Christmas Present. Still, it all comes down to Scrooge and his remarkable transformation. In that role, you'll find able actor Aled Davies, returning for his fourth season. At the helm: Sara Bruner, GLT's longtime artistic director. Performances continue through December 23 at the Hanna Theatre, 2067 East 14th St. Tickets are $26 to $60 at 216-241-6000 or online at greatlakestheater.org. — Elaine T. Cicora

Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant: Home for the Hollandaise: Putting a whole new spin on the "dinner theater" notion, Cleveland Public Theatre brings back this hilarious piece of devised entertainment. A night at Conni's comes complete with a five-course dinner prepared and served by a cast of zany characters. Between courses, expect song, dance, and maybe even a visit from the Soup Angel. Performances are set for December 1 through 18 at 6415 Detroit Ave. Your $60 ticket includes your locally sourced dinner, beverages, and unlimited visits to the all-you-can-laugh buffet. Make your reservations by phone at 216-631-2727 or visit cptonline.org, where you'll find more information.

The Game's Afoot (or Holmes for the Holidays): Cleveland Play House presents a world premiere by award-winning playwright Ken Ludwig. A sprightly murder mystery/comedy, the action takes place in a Connecticut mansion on Christmas Eve, where we meet famed stage actor William Gillette recovering from an attempt on his life. His home becomes the setting for a murder, and Gillette must use his detective skills, honed through years of playing the role of Sherlock Holmes, to catch the culprit. Hilarity ensues. Performances continue through December 24 at the Allen Theatre, 1501 Euclid Ave. Tickets are $49 to $69, available at 216-241-6000 or at clevelandplayhouse.com.

The Internationalist: See a full review in this issue. Convergence-Continuum completes its 2011 season with Anne Washburn's dark and muddled comedy for the age of globalization. Performances continue through December 17 at the Liminis, 2438 Scranton Rd., in Tremont. Tickets are $10 to $15, and are available at 216-687-0074 or convergence-continuum.org.

The Santaland Diaries: Cleveland Public Theatre's production of Diaries has been a local Christmas tradition since 2005. This year, author David Sedaris' tale of Santa's most beleaguered department-store elf runs through December 17 at the 14th Street Theatre on Playhouse Square, 2037 East 14th St. Tickets are $20 to $30, and are available by phone at 216-241-6000 or online at cptonline.org.

The Seafarer: Dobama Theatre continues its 52nd season with a work by award-winning Irish playwright Conor McPherson (who coincidentally also wrote St. Nicholas, now playing at Ensemble Theatre, below). The play takes place on Christmas Eve in the home of two aging bachelor bros: one blind and on a bender, the other jobless and on the wagon. When a mysterious stranger drives their booze-soaked poker game to the highest stakes possible, Irish-style weirdness is in the cards. Directed by Scott Miller, performances take place December 2 through 18 at 2340 Lee Rd. in Cleveland Heights. Tickets are $10 to $26. On December 4, tickets are on a "pay what you can" basis. Get them at 216-932-3396 or online at dobama.org.

St. Nicholas: The calendar notwithstanding, this one-man show from 1998 is no cheery Christmas extravaganza. It's more like a scary bedtime story for grown-ups, relayed by a master raconteur: The tale of a tired, self-loathing Irish critic who abandons his family and follows a beautiful young dancer to London, only to fall under the spell of a crew of vampires. Through December 11 at Ensemble Theatre, 2843 Washington Blvd. in Cleveland Heights. Tickets are $10 to $20 at 216-321-2930 or online at ensemble-theatre.org.

Trying: Cesear's Forum concludes 2011 with Joanna McClelland Glass' two-person drama set in 1967. Inspired by the playwright's own experience as secretary to the brilliant but cantankerous Judge Francis Biddle — best known as F.D.R.'s Attorney General and Chief Justice for the Nuremberg war crimes trial — the story reveals the ways in which two people can affect each other deeply and forever. Through December 10 at Kennedy's Down Under, 1501 Euclid Ave. at Playhouse Square. Tickets are $15; for more information, call at 216-241-6000 or playhousesquare.org.

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