Of all the versions of the Scrooge stories on stage this season, Dad's Garage's Invasion: Christmas Carol is the only one where you'll hear words like "bacne" or "turduckephant."
Created by the theater's improv ensemble and directed by Dan Triandiflou, the Christmas Carol satire rejiggers the "invasion" concept the theater used in last year's Invasion: Our Town. Both shows turn a theatrical classic upside down with the addition of a mid-show "invader" who's not only new to the text, but hasn't been seen by the rest of the cast. The visitor's then incorporated into the show on the fly. Dad's likes to draft current or defunct roles from its long-running improvised soap opera Scandal! as the invader, and on Invasion's opening night Scott Warren played the Ghost of Christmas Past as a blustering barbarian in a loin cloth.
The nightly invader, however, isn't the most surprising aspect of Invasion. The casting of a cross-dressing Amber Nash as Ebenezer Scrooge brings a fresh perspective to an overly familiar role. With her make-up, muttonchops and permanent scowl, Nash has something of a Dr. Zaius look about her. She gives Scrooge a delightfully bitchy energy, so it's a shame that much of the show inevitably makes Scrooge passive and regretful.
Invasion: Christmas Carol features many built-in opportunities for improv games, and at times the actors deliberately mess with each other to funny effect. Nash, for instance, can control the duration of the Christmas "present" scenes we see and require frantic quick changes from the actors playing multiple roles. The actors don't know where Scrooge's childhood scenes take place. On opening night we discover that Scrooge worked with his first employer Fezziwig at Myrtle Beach.
Where Invasion: Our Town felt like a more structured parody of Thornton Wilder's venerable text, Invasion: Christmas Carol is so loose and frivolous, at times it seems like the wheels will come off completely. Plus, even when the show features a funny invader such as Warren's barbarian, the show's still stuck with the role for the duration, even if he overstays his welcome. Fortunately the Scrooge story is so familiar and the actors nimble enough that the story survives, even though you're less likely to hear "Bah, humbug!" than an epithet like "By the leathery nipple of Hera!"