PHOENIX, ARIZ.: “I can tell this is going to be one badass mofo of a Christmas,” says one of a trio of retirees in Space 55’s irreverent holiday show A Bloody Mary Christmas (running Dec. 4–21). Replies another: “Every day is Christmas for us, ladies.” Chimes in the third: “Yeah, every day is filled with disappointment, regret and resentment.”
That sounds about right for a play conceived, as Space 55 acting artistic director Charlie Steak puts it, as “a holiday musical for people who hate the holidays and hate musicals.” And playwright Denny Guge—who wrote the show with the three actresses who originated the roles of hard-drinking, down-on-their-luck oldsters Bertha, Mabel and Blanche—is “really good at writing things that are funny, and right on that borderline of what is acceptable and what is not,” Steak declares. “He gets as close as he can to what is not in this show.”
A Bloody Mary Christmas fits Space 55’s mission to produce new and original work. Earlier this fall, the theatre staged Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, and in 2011 it hosted the world premiere of Greg Kotis’s The Unhappiness Plays. But, as for every theatre or ballet company, the lure of the holiday perennial—even an anti-holiday perennial—proves strong. This is Bloody Mary’s fourth time under the mistletoe.
“We bring it back because we get a lot of audience,” says Steak, who adds that while the theatre’s audiences typically skew young (“We have a demographic most regional theatres would kill for, between 18 and 35”), the holiday crowds range more widely. Not that they’re a staid bunch: “The audience is not quiet,” Steak says of the show’s rowdy vibe. It’s only fitting that an unholy night should be an un-silent one, too.