Back into the crack

Buttcracker II

Lou Zaumeyer, the Rat King, prepares to do <i>Buttcracker</i>-style battle with his light saber.

Lou Zaumeyer, the Rat King, prepares to do Buttcracker-style battle with his light saber.

Photo By David Robert

Rated 3.0

Roping a last-minute date on a Friday night can be challenging in general, but try giving the hard sell to a potential escort while dangling a ticket to Buttcracker II between two fingers. Maybe it’s in the way you are holding it, as if the passes came directly from the dank, dark recess for which it’s named.

In any case, if your desired date is the type to be turned off by low-brow humor, irreverent treatment of perennially adored classical ballet or simply the word “Buttcracker,” then accept some experience-wrought advice and don’t ask him or her to join you for this one. I learned this lesson by vexing trial last Friday night.

A bonus of spending the evening without the close company of the opposite sex was that I was able to experience the play without too much distraction. So here goes my unadulterated account of the third-night’s performance of Brüka Theatre’s Buttcracker II: You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll crap your pants. What more is there to say?

The opening strains of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite lured me into a brief sense of familiarity that fell apart when I discovered that the overture was just a teasing prelude to flapdoodle: A prancing pizza delivery guy, a wardrobe staff on gleeful promenade with a rack of costumes and the Stahlbaum family Christmas tree growing with phallic palpitations in the background.

Mary Bennett is a riot as Clara. She imparts infectious cheerfulness, and her comedic timing throughout the play is spot-on. Another standout is Andrew Mowers, whose voice lends hilarious, deadpan narration to the farce. My straight face was unexpectedly shattered by his voiced-over comments that included, “Clara didn’t care that she had fallen in love with a freak of nature. She had a big heart—and big hair.”

As a child of the ‘80s, I couldn’t resist being absorbed in the crazed, red-light-district juxtaposing of music video memories of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video with the traditional dance between Clara and the Nutcracker, wherein Clara lifts and tosses a stuffed, stunt-double version of her dance partner into the air.

The huge cast of actors exchanged grand, dysfunctional chemistry and Christmas time glee that you would have to be a curmudgeon to dislike. The key to enjoying Buttcracker II is to abandon all focused attempts at comparison. The audience is given only flash reminders of the original ballet, but this musical comedy has enough of its own cheeky wit to keep viewers on their toes.

I enjoyed Buttcracker II right down to the event card, which prominently states that the play is designed for viewers ages 12 and up. I got the impression that its humor was specifically tailored for those below that age bracket—but that’s just me. Even so, this off-kilter musical parody is in some ways more engaging than its forebear. Whereas The Nutcracker demands a commixture of sentimentality and cultivation of its audience. Buttcracker II requires only a very liberated sense of humor. William James once said, “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.”

The Buttcracker II is much too unhinged to bear the weight of a family’s sole holiday theater experience. It does, however, suffice as a jovial winter date night—for the right couple.