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Comedy Theater Promises A Salty Christmas Treat

Photo by Julia Metelsky
Courtesy of Arcade Comedy Theater
From left, Justin Vetter, Vanessa St. Clair, and John Feightner star in "The Night Before Christmas."

Sure, there’s the debate over whether “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie. And there’s the occasional “Bad Santa” or two. But most holiday stories, whether on page, film or stage, are on the sweet side, family-friendly, and decked with happy endings.

Arcade Comedy Theater presents "The Night Before Christmas": 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Fri., Dec. 6-Dec. 21. 943 Liberty Ave., Downtown

This year, a seasonal offering from Arcade Comedy Theater is more salt than it is figgy pudding. The troupe is staging British playwright Anthony Nielson’s “The Night Before Christmas,” a raucous 1996 comedy about a pair of cockney blokes stuck in a drafty warehouse on Christmas Eve. They capture an intruder, and have to decide whether the mysterious fellow is an elf, or just a fancy burglar.

In other words, instead of Dasher, Dancer and Prancer, Arcade is offering sex, drugs and a bit of comedic menace.

“If you ever wished that Quentin Tarantino made a Christmas movie, this is the play for you,” said troupe co-founder Jethro Nolen, who directs.

“Night Before Christmas” is recommended for audiences ages 16 and older. The production, which opens Friday, concludes Arcade’s first season of staging scripted plays – a departure from its first several years of programming, when the Downtown-based troupe focused on improv and sketch comedy.

Nolen said the initiative came partly because there are a lot of funny plays that weren’t coming to town, and partly because it’s easier to find funders for scripted plays than for improv. He said Arcade considers the first two plays of this inaugural season, “SEX, aka Boobs and Wieners” and “Bubble Boy: The Musical,” to be successes.

There’ll be more plays to come next year, Nolen said. But for now, there’s “Night Before Christmas.” The show stars John Feightner and Justin Vetter as the cockneys, with Vanessa St. Clair as the intruder, along with Emily Welsh.

The show runs one hour. There are six late-night weekend performances, starting Friday and running through Dec. 21. Arcade is a BYOB venue.  Ticket information is here.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: