The interactive, improv-heavy comedy has fun with an old favorite

I’m not sure how many different iterations of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol I’ve seen in my lifetime, but there were at least five I could come up with right off the bat. Six, if you count the original story itself. The Second City’s Twist Your Dickens, returning for another year at the Aurora Fox, springboards off that familiarity with a fresh, irreverent take on the perennial Christmas favorite.

Using the basic outline of the Dickens classic, Twist Your Dickens diverges into anachronisms, frequent asides to the audience and improv-style interaction, nods to recognizable and beloved Christmas specials, and employs more than a little profanity. I don’t want to say much more than that about the plot lest I give away one of the delightful surprises.

The improv-like nature is such that every performance will have some differences, which is part of the appeal. You can tell where this is headed when you walk into the theater and are invited to write down one of your own misdeeds, which is destined to become part of Marley’s chain — and perhaps part of the performance. The audience participates in other ways, too, suggesting time periods and occupations, singing, and if desired, taking selfies after the performance with one of the actors.

The humor usually hits its mark. I found myself laughing frequently — particularly at the more modern cultural references. I wasn’t alone: The whole experience is intended to engage the audience and it nearly always succeeds. Keep in mind that it is definitely geared toward adults; I wouldn’t bring young children to this one.

The cast really hustles. Of the seven actors, Scrooge (Erik Sandvold) is the only one who plays just one part. Everyone else plays multiple roles — so many that my friend I and were surprised how few actors there were at the curtain call. The frequent costume changes themselves are even part of the humor. All of them fulfill their roles ably and have good comic timing. Sandvold does a good job of providing the backbone here. I found that I enjoyed when the play calls for him to be out of character also.

The set works well for the performance (and likely the costume changes), with a Victorian street scene and rotating areas that showcase Scrooge’s office and home.

If I have a criticism, it’s that the play does feel just a little long, particularly in the second half. Cutting fifteen minutes somewhere in there would have eliminated the drag. There’s a part with a lounge singer that was less funny and perhaps skippable, but others were laughing, so who’s to say?

Most of the time, though, Twist Your Dickens is funny and worth watching — a fun twist on a classic that’s festive, but not tired.