Many Happy Returns

Rated 4.0

As is the Christmas custom at B Street Theatre, this year’s holiday offering is quirky, kinky and completely off-kilter. Breaking with the usual tradition, however, is the decision to stage a production by an outsider rather than by B Street’s artistic director Buck Busfield, who usually pens the annual holiday play.

Though the theater went out of house this year, Irish playwright Bernard Farrell’s Many Happy Returns hearkens to Busfield’s favorite festive focus: dysfunctional families that seem to light up like Christmas trees at this time of year.

This particular Dublin-area family consists of curmudgeonly father Matty, his slightly neurotic daughter Irene and her disillusioned husband, Arthur. All await the arrival of Declan, the local-boy-does-good who’s made millions in New Zealand. The broke couple try to get back into society and money by manipulating their friend at a Christmas get-together. Of course, craziness ensues.

Most of the wacky situations have to do with the age-old holiday traditions that tend to pop up in between the sentimental moments: drinking, sex and arguing. Though everyone tries to put his or her best side forward, the bad sides keep popping out, including the entire backside of Arthur at the end of the first act.

The humor is fun and naughty, though there’s a big misstep when the character of Declan crosses over the line from idiot to abusive asshole, making for uncomfortable moments rather than funny ones. The cast is winning, and the laughs are many, but be aware: The humor is more Bad Santa than Santa Claus.