These actors force Dickens to walk the plank.
This season's most perverse poke at Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol may be Xmas Marks the Spot, a production by the boisterously self-deprecating comedy troupe Commedia Sans Arte. In its zeal to be irreverent, the outfit refashions Scrooge as Ebenezer Scourge (known also as Captain Bloody Neezer), a pirate described as having reached "the top of the ladder at the bottom of humanity." Scourge's crankiness is chalked up to a midlife crisis brought on by screwing over his partner, Narly Marley. Set amid crass commercialism, the show also twists the classic story with the Ghosts of Pirates Past, Present and Future and some don't-ask, don't-tell action on the high seas. Commedia Sans Arte co-founder J. Chris Johnson also warns that, despite the Pirates of the Caribbean echoes, the show is more appropriate for adult audiences.
The two-year-old troupe, which is based partly on modern improvisational theater and partly on the Italian commedia dell'arte, is largely made up of KC Renaissance Fair street performers. "We are comedy totally without artistic merit," Johnson says. The show opens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Just Off Broadway Theatre (3051 Central) and runs Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through December 30. Call 913-371-4995. -- Steve Walker
Octarium doesn't take direction from anybody.
Octarium is Latin for eight as one, and it's an apt name for the Kansas City choral octet known for its flawless harmonies. Vocal ensembles thrive on unity, but Octarium takes togetherness to extremes -- among its members are two married couples. "When you find a group like this one, you hold on for dear life, because it is so exceedingly rare," says artistic director Krista Lang Blackwood, who doesn't sing in the group. (She's also the wife of Pitch writer Kendrick Blackwood.) "Octarium interprets its pieces without a conductor," she says. "I call it 'Octari-izing.'"
For its holiday program, the group will Octari-ize Western-Christian, African-Christian and Jewish material. The singing starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church (6401 Wornall) and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church (5700 West Sixth Street in Lawrence). For information, call 816-729-6516. -- Andrew Miller
Friday, We're in Love
Those whose bouts of '80s nostalgia have been impeded by the rise of postpunk-throwback dance-rock bands such as Franz Ferdinand and Radio 4 can cut through all the treacle (or let it build up again) at 8 p.m. Friday at The Granada (1020 Massachusetts in Lawrence) when local Cure tribute band Magfuckingnificent covers the album Disintegration in its wallowing entirety. Call 785-838-9999. -- Jason Harper