Christmas in Hell

Real kids are strictly forbidden, but if you're planning to attend The 2002 Slump XXXmas Show: A Jim Jones Christmas, be sure to bring your 12-year-old inner child. Who else is going to hoot and holler at this extended carnival of fart jokes and schoolgirls showing off their ruffled pink panties? Written by Keith Reynolds along with "every member of the cast and some of the crew," this raunchy, slapped-together bit of nonsense comes off like the nightmarish stepchild of a Farrelly brothers movie (imagine Something About Mary on meth). But it's certainly more amusing than such a thing ought to be. And you just have to give it to any group who'll put Jim Jones, Frosty the Snowman and Jesus Christ on the same side of the law, holed up in a church, fighting the Office of Homeland Security.

We catch up with Santa (Keith Reynolds), Frosty (Noel Bowers), Jesus (Paul Locklear) and Rudolph (Thunder Denton) a year after they've been kicked out of the North Pole because of an elf insurrection. Sad to say, Mrs. Claus was found with "an elf's dildo stuck five inches in her skull," and the group is toting around her dead body in a smelly pine box. The plan is to set up a toy-making operation in South America, but poor Rudolph is too grief-stricken to pull the sleigh past Houston. Since America has "rules against sweatshop labor," Santa's obliged to form a church/cult and recruit members/toymakers from among the local derelicts and a group of naive Catholic schoolgirls. It's all in the name of the "needy fucking children."

Irreverent religious jokes abound. Frosty tells us that "everyone sucks" except the Christians. Rudolph, who's still pining for Mrs. Claus, tries all sorts of black magic to resurrect her. And Jesus won't stop complaining about how uncomfortable it is to hang on the cross -- that is, until he gets glass-eyed stoned. (Apparently pot has something to do with the Son of God's good will as well.)

The four have trouble finding volunteers at first. But after Jesus lays hands on a blind man and a nun, causing him to see and her to be "healed" from her "rigidity, uptightness and unwillingness to communicate through her sexuality," people come clamoring through the skanky church doors.

Despite the utterly willful tastelessness of pretty much every moment of this dirty mess, one recent audience (of what appeared to be ordinary, middle-class Houstonians) laughed and laughed. Of course, the obnoxious drunks behind me guffawed and caterwauled the loudest, but I'm not sure showing up drunk helps one appreciate the oh-my-God-they-aren't-doing-that moments (such as when the retarded derelict gets it up the heinie while the rest of the bums sing about how they ended up on the street). Besides, you need to have some of your wits about you if you're going to catch the show's smartest digs at current American politics. These involve X-Files agents Skully (Karina Pal-Montaño) and Moulder (Patrick Reynolds), who show up at the church as part of the Office of Homeland Security, claiming they don't need a search warrant because everyone inside is Muslim (pronounced "Mooslim"). Moulder points to Santa's beard as proof.

Writhing throughout are the many sophomoric references to sex, which come off as amazingly innocent despite the cast's intentions. Of course, the production has the appearance of down and dirty nastiness. The walls of the theater are covered with giant red and green Christmas panels filled with cartoon drawings of naked people (mostly women) in all sorts of spread-eagle positions. One girl has a very loving Labrador; others are enjoying a double-headed dildo. The stained-glass windows of the church feature a bent-over Mary giving bloody birth to Jesus as a pig licks up the mess. As shocking as all this might sound, there's something so youthfully earnest in the show's desire to make us re-examine our ideas about Christmas and the way religion has wormed its way into politics that it's hard to be even remotely aghast at the irreverent peep show.

Much is made of the schoolgirls, who are introduced in a childish tune that goes something like "we are little girls, little itty bitty girls, little itty bitty itty bitty itty bitty girls" over and over again. Going by such unlikely names as Cinnamon (Lisa Marie Singerman), Jezebel (Genevieve Alexander) and Mary Masturbatia (Meg Griffin), the girls offer up something that no grown woman can: the hope of innocents. "The world's not fair, but we still care," they chant. Of course, once they're cured of their "rigidity, uptightness and unwillingness to communicate through their sexuality," they join Frosty in a wild orgy. Everyone keeps their clothes on (except when the derelicts moon the audience), and the performances are all so amateurish that even this scene stays pretty tame.

When Jim Jones (Richard Lyders) shows up to help Rudolph bring back Mrs. Claus, everybody, including the audience, drinks Kool-Aid, then winds up in hell, where Mrs. Claus treats us to a rousing rendition of a song called "Yeast Infection" (hell's very hot and sticky). The long night finally ends with an altered version of "Silent Night"; be prepared to sing along with "Fuck your ass, fuck your ass, fucky fucky fucky assy assy assy" and so forth.

A good deal of this show could and should be cut. Jokes about farts and panties just aren't worth two and a half hours of anyone's time. In its best possible light, The Slump XXXmas Show might be thought of as a salty antidote to all the sugary goo offered by every other venue this time of year. At its worst, it's the most tasteless way you'll ever celebrate the season.

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Lee Williams