Like a campy “Christmas Carol” or a slightly demented “Nutcracker,” Grenadine McGunkle has become a holiday tradition in New Orleans.
Launched in 2001 by the theatrical troupe Running with Scissors, “Grenadine McGunkle’s Double-Wide Christmas” returns with its 2014 edition Friday, Dec. 5, at the Mid-City Theatre and runs through Sunday, Dec. 21.
Starring local singer and actor Dorian Rush in the title role, this year’s “Grenadine” is, in keeping with tradition, a completely new scenario.
Rush describes the cast, half of whom have been with the shows since the beginning, as “like a family.” Playing residents of the fictional Hogwalla County Everlasting Arms Trailer Park, they have their own little quirks and unique personalities that sometimes mesh with each other but, more often than not, conflict.
It is those conflicts and contradictions that create the base of the action of each year’s installment, Rush and Jack Long, another cast member, acknowledge. This year’s theme centers on a speed-dating contest set in motion by Grenadine’s high-strung young cousins-slash-stepsisters, Crystal and China (Ashley Ricord Santos and Lisa Picone Love).
“Speed-dating is funny,” Rush said. “It’s not Shakespeare. Grenadine is trying to, as always, plan her Christmas party. But Crystal and China show up and one of them just had her marriage annulled.
“So they’re looking to find love and they find everybody in the trailer park on an eHogwalla dating site,” Rush continued. “It starts off cyber and then it becomes something they arrange to have in person. That’s where the antics ensue.”
Long plays Helen Highwater, a precocious, sex-obsessed 14-year-old. Other actors include Brooklyn Shaffer as Gladys Finkelstein, the trailer park yenta; Bob Edes Jr. as Mail Lady Joanne Shoemake; and Kyle Daigrepont as the mystery stranger who shows up for the speed-dating with ulterior motives.
The script was a joint effort between the cast and Richard Read, founder and director of Running with Scissors.
Working with much of the same cast is like a family reunion, Rush mused. “We’re family, but not a dysfunctional, horrible kind,” Rush said. “We pretend to be dysfunctional but that’s just part of the show. We’re all very happy to be together and it’s a good experience. We’re excited and we laugh a lot and it’s like a close family — slightly dysfunctional but not in a really bad way.”
The actors share a common goal. “There are no prima donnas among our group,” Long said. “It’s always about what’s best for the show and everyone in it, and it’s always fun.”
“What’s nice about our show is that it is that kind of tradition — the traditional Christmas show,” Long continued. “We get to change it up every year. It is the same basic story but the plot is different from one year to the next. That’s what makes it fun for me. So everybody has their little goals; but the characters stay within the basic personas they’ve had all along. There’s a great continuity there.”
Long described his character as “sort of a terror and high-strung, probably coming from a repressive upbringing and rebelling against it. I would call her ‘a preacher’s kid.’ When I was growing up in Oklahoma, if you wanted to know where to get the booze, sex and drugs you’d ask the preacher’s kid.”
“Doing this show every year is a wonderful treat,” Long concluded. “It’s a bit of Christmas lightheartedness that’s great for everyone.”