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posted: 12/4/2013 6:28 AM

'Twist-a-Carol' offers holiday stress relief in Elgin

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  • Geoffrey Maher, left, Marc Jolley and Debbi Dennison bring the lighter side of the holidays to life in Vex Theatre Company's "Twist-a-Carol IV: Dr. Whoville."

      Geoffrey Maher, left, Marc Jolley and Debbi Dennison bring the lighter side of the holidays to life in Vex Theatre Company's "Twist-a-Carol IV: Dr. Whoville."
    Courtesy of Vex Theatre Company

By Jamie Greco
Daily Herald correspondent

The holidays are filled to the brim with traditions, from tree lightings to carols to shopping until we drop.

According to the Vex Theatre Company's artistic director, Rich Geiger of Palatine, "Twist-a Carol" is the antidote for all the charming, yet repetitive Christmas must-dos.

"We like to poke fun at, and think about how the holidays get kind of big and powerful and sort of push us around," Geiger said.

"Twist-a-Carol IV: Dr. Whoville" will open Friday, Dec. 6, and run through Sunday, Dec. 8, at the Elgin Art Showcase. Tickets are $10.

"It's short, funny, sketch-based evening of theater," said company co-founder Cathleen Ann of Palatine, who serves as a writer, actor, and producer of the show. "We do a series of original, short, funny plays written by members of the Vex Theatre Company. The shows make fun of the aspects of the holidays that make us crazy or give us some stress and we find a way to make fun of it in a creative way."

This year's production marks the fourth installment of the annual Twist-a-Carol, which is part of Elgin's tree lighting weekend festivities and is sponsored by the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission.

The show consists of seven short, original plays about the holidays.

"We have puppets. We have family drama comedies. We also have live music between the plays with Christmas tunes," Ann said.

This year's production includes a mashup of the popular time-traveling TV show, "Dr. Who" and Dr. Suess' "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" characters, called "Dr. Whoville".

"Every year we have our marquee play as the finale, and this year we have Dr. Who and bring him to Whoville for Christmas," Ann said.

Geiger's contribution to this year's production is a story called Stiff Upper Lip.

"It's about a Victorian funeral parlor and the morticians," Geiger said. "Because of their business they have to be calm and demure all the time, so they can't be joyful and singing about Christmas. So they sit around and tell each other stories and they try to celebrate Christmas."

"I thought it's very hard for people to have a death during the holidays so I tried to invert that and have a kind of comical look at it and kind of twist it around," he added.

Although Geiger is listed as a director for the production, he considers himself more of a coordinator.

"The people who write the different pieces know what they want and we all work it together, it's collaborative," he said.

Cast members include Geoffrey Maher of Arlington Heights; Lori Rohr of Palatine; Bill Boggs and Cheryl Rice of Elmhurst; David Soria and Katie Soria of Lombard; and Debbi Dennison of Schaumburg.

According to Ann, the show is aimed at audience members age 12 and older.

"We are a clean show," she said. "There is no sex, drugs, violence or swearing, but we like to say (it's for) older kids, teens and up, because kids under 12 may not get the humor."

Ann recommends that people make "Twist-a-Carol" a part of Saturday's Window Wonderland and tree lighting experience, which includes live reindeer and the arrival of Santa.

"In downtown Elgin, there's so much to do," she said. "You can have dinner, come to the show, walk around, see live reindeer."

And once the traditional Christmas activities are over, head over to "Twist-a-Carol" for a shake-up of the holiday season.

"It's a holiday event that it's not 'A Christmas Carol,' it's not 'Nutcracker,' it's not 'It's a Wonderful Life,'" Ann said. "It's something that people have never seen before."

For tickets or more information, visit

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